George Romero: The Godfather of All Zombies
Before Rick and the gang started fighting their way through the zombie apocalypse in “The Walking Dead” in 2011, a motley crew of survivors battled the undead for the control of a shopping mall in 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead.” “Dawn of the Dead” is among the first zombie movies created by George A. Romero. Romero created aspects of the modern zombie that revolutionized the genre and influenced all subsequent movies after his first film, 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead.”
Before Romero’s cult classic “Night of the Living Dead” was created, representations of zombies in film were vastly different than what audiences are used to today. They were perceived as reanimated corpses that became mindless slaves through voodoo magic, complete with white faces and blackened eyes. Romero was the first director to create what is known today as the “modern zombie.” The “modern zombie” is dressed in clothes it died in, is missing limbs and is sometimes covered in blood. In his low-budget success “Night of the Living Dead,” these “modern zombie” aspects were very subtle, but as Romero continued his “Dead” pentalogy, the blood and gore became more prominent).
Besides the actual zombies themselves, Romero’s works feature a theme of social commentary and criticism. The original “Dawn of the Dead,” in which four survivors take refuge in a mall, is praised by film critics for its comment on society’s consumerism. Even though the zombies’ sole purpose is to consume the living, Romero left them with artifacts of their former consumer selves. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” stood out through its character development and the sense of struggle the survivors face. Compared to the 2004 remake of the same title, directed by Zack Snyder, Romero’s “Dawn” has a much slower pace. Romero’s film felt more eerie than terrifying. The zombies in 1978 have more of an overbearing presence because they loiter around just waiting for food to come their way.
Films that followed Romero’s lead include parody “Shaun of the Dead,” “28 Days Later” and its sequel “28 Weeks Later,” “Quarantine” and “The Evil Dead” franchise, to be remade in 2013. “The Walking Dead” on AMC, as well as the original comic series by Robert Kirkman, has become a pop culture sensation. Video games such as the “Resident Evil” Series and “Call of Duty Black Ops: Zombies” can all thank Romero for his original vision of the modern zombie apocalypse. Romero and his innovations truly established zombie horror as the genre we know and love today.