George A. Romero, the maverick film director who died Sunday, brought zombies into our cultural consciousness decades before those in “The Walking Dead” were even crawling. Here’s a look at five of his most memorable films.
‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968)
Mr. Romero’s black-and-white zombie shocker was a horror movie game-changer. Set on a Pennsylvania farm under siege by the undead, the low-budget film featured a horror rarity: a heroic black leading man, played by Duane Jones, who tries to calm a house of white folks. (It doesn’t go well for him, or anyone, really.) It also kicked off the modern zombie film genre, and did so with social commentary — about race and violence, most notably — in its blood. (Mr. Romero called the racial themes in the film “an accident.”)
The director Jordan Peele cited “Night of the Living Dead” in interviews about “Get Out,” his megahit horror film this year about black trauma and white monsters. “The way that movie handles race is so essential to what makes it great,” Mr. Peele said. [Read the review]
‘The Crazies’ (1973)
Mr. Romero turned to bio-horror in this frenzied film about the United States government’s attempt to contain the release of a deadly biological weapon, nicknamed Trixie, in a small town. Lesser-known than Mr. Romero’s other films, “The Crazies” emerged alongside ’70s contagion disaster films like “The Andromeda Strain,” but with Mr. Romero’s signature focus on the lives of working-class innocents compromised by the incompetence of the powerful. [Read the review]
‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1979)
Mr. Romero’s big zombie follow-up to “Night of the Living Dead” had capitalism in its cross hairs. (“If there’s something I’d like to criticize, I can bring the zombies out. And I get the financing that way,” he told Time in 2010. “So I’ve been able to express my political views through those films.”
Set in the aftermath of a mass-zombie uprising, this gory film is most memorable for scenes of gray-faced, bellbottomed zombies ambling through an empty shopping center. The movie was filmed at the Monroeville Mall in Pennsylvania, which became a holy place for horror pilgrims.
Continue reading the main story