Remembering George A. Romero by Sean Brickley

I was born in 1979, which was only a mere eleven years shy of the monumental release of 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. By the time I was old enough (or allowed by my mom) to understand the zombie genre, both Dawn Of The Dead (1978) and Day Of The Dead (1985) had been released. To be fair, my introduction to the horror genre came from that of another brilliant mind, which has since left us: Wes Craven. My mother had tried to deter me from watching scary movies altogether by sitting me down in front of A Nightmare On Elm Street, which had the entirely opposite effect and thus opened the floodgates for my young little mind.

It wasn’t long before I realized that others had come before Mr. Craven and I eventually stumbled onto the original Night of the Living Dead. Prior to that moment, being only 7 or 8 years old, I had always assumed black and white movies were primitive and that modern movies were more important. Night of the Living Dead changed that mindset almost on the spot. While I had assumed that older (black and white) movies had to be watered down to fit in with the older generation’s aesthetic of what was “proper,” NOTLD took that stereotype and not only destroyed it, but smashed it at its foundation.

Enter one of my best friends, a tough little Italian kid named Vinny, who was light years ahead of me regarding the zombie genre. We met in the 5th grade and our weekend nights would eventually be consumed by VHS viewings of the original Romero trilogy (plus other movies that had been inspired by his vision) and if it was a Saturday, “Headbanger’s Ball” on MTV (usually making fun of Riki Rachtman because he was a turd). This is a friendship that has spanned nearly 30 years and we still joke about his “fear” of an actual zombie apocalypse.

I don’t think that a young George Romero knew exactly what he would be creating nearly 50 years ago in those fields in Pennsylvania. I honestly don’t think he realized he would be creating a revolution in film and subculture. At the time, he was a young man with a brilliant vision and nothing more. How could he have known that he would inspire an entire army, across decades, of people directly associated with a now-burgeoning industry? How could he know that his vision of the undead would pretty much set the standard for the next half century and beyond? How could he know that two kids in some random Connecticut town in the 1980s would be able to bond for the rest of their lives over his glorious, singular vision?

The simple answer is that he didn’t. George Romero was just a young man with a fresh, new vision. And now he is gone. The progenitor of the modern zombie is now resting peacefully, and powerfully. Thankfully, while George Romero’s death further defines his legacy, there exists an entire legion of writers, producers, directors and special effects personnel who will strive to ultimately continue his vision and his quest.

As a fan, I can find a bit of comfort in that.

– Sean Brickley

George A. Romero

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Sean Brickley

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