So Long George Romero and Thanks for the Zombies


Famed American film director George Romero died July 16, 2017. Laura Lezza/Getty Images
Famed American film director George Romero died July 16, 2017. Laura Lezza/Getty Images

Famed director George Romero died over the weekend on at the age of 77. Romero became famous for shaping our modern concept of the zombie. While he died peacefully in his sleep on July 16, 2017, his work will continue to make sleep a challenge for the millions of his fans.

Romero's debut and most influential film, "Night of the Living Dead," hit screens in 1968. The movie follows a small group of people trying to survive a ghoulish assault from the dead who have risen from their graves in order to feast upon the living.

The gruesome concept for the film wasn't the only thing to get people talking. One of the leads was played by Duane Jones, a black actor. His death at the hands of a posse at the end of the film seemed to be a nod to the tumultuous civil rights movement. Romero, for his part, said that he didn't intend for his film to be an example of social commentary. But it hasn't stopped countless critics and fans from subjecting "Night of the Living Dead" to endless analysis.

Title card from George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead."
Title card from George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead."
Wikimedia Commons

If you want to analyze the film yourself, you can, for free. Back when Romero was making the movie, it had a different title: "Night of the Flesh Eaters." When he changed the title, there was a tiny but significant clerical error — the distributor failed to put the copyright notice on the final cut. That was a requirement for films before the Copyright Act of 1976 eliminated the necessity and it meant that "Night of the Living Dead" immediately went into the public domain as soon as it was published. You can watch it for free online or download a copy and it's completely legal.

Romero went on to make several more films in the Living Dead series, with several of them satirizing or criticizing concepts like consumerism and capitalism. The traits he gave to his flesh-craving monsters, which only later would be known as zombies, have become a horror trope. They move slowly with purpose. Few of the traits they had as living, breathing humans remain. They crave flesh (in some zombie films they specifically want to eat your brains). And to be bitten by one means you will transform into a zombie yourself.

Like Bub the Zombie, we salute Romero for his work. And HowStuffWorks welcomes you to explore the world of zombies with us.

Do Zombies Really Exist?

Zombies may not exist in real life, but they do exist in movies and stories. And these undead menaces lurch around mindlessly, in search of flesh. Check out this Stuff You Should Know podcast and hear Josh and Chuck discuss where the idea for zombies originated and other brain-eating fun facts.

Survival of the Fittest?

Think you'd survive the zombie apocalypse? Well, probably not, says a study from the University of Leicester in England. Students there published an academic paper suggesting just 273 humans would last 100 days, despite how many walkers are on "The Walking Dead." Check it out here.

Buried Alive?

This classic two-part episode from Stuff They Don't Want You To Know delves deep into the concept of zombies, as big business and legend. But outside of the horror films and video games, is there any truth to their existence? Tune in to find out.

Science Says No Zombies

As much we love Romero's dedication to "fleshing" out the zombie genre, science isn't completely convinced. Are the flesh eaters dead? Are they alive? Are they even possible? Probably not. Thank goodness.