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.
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.