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George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead Creator, Dead at 77

The father of the modern zombie movie has passed away at age 77, according to a report from The Los Angeles Times. George A. Romero, creator of the groundbreaking zombie franchise, Night of the Living Dead, passed away in his sleep from lung cancer Sunday. His longtime producer partner, Peter Grunwald, said Romero’s cancer was a “brief but aggressive battle.” He passed away alongside surviving family members, while the score to one of his favorite movies, The Quiet Man, played.

Romero directed and co-wrote, with John A. Russo, Night of the Living Dead in 1968, setting a template for modern horror coupled with social commentary. The film spawned an entire franchise through the 2000s, including Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), and Survival of the Dead (2009). Romero was lauded for taking minuscule film budgets–just $114,000 to make the 1968 debut–and turning them into trenchant remarks on the horrors of modern society. Night of the Living Dead went on to gross more than $24 million, worldwide.

Romero was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1940. His father was a Cuban national, while his mother was Lithuanian-American. He attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, before moving on to his career in film. He is survived by wife Suzanne Desrocher Romero, daughter Tina Romero, and son Andrew Romero.