Remembering George A. Romero by C. Robert Cargill

Romero may not have invented the midnight movie, but he sure as hell helped bring it into the mainstream. Though the copyright issue surrounding Night of the Living Dead would prove to be a decades long thorn in his side, it allowed television stations the world over to run the film late at night without having to pay for it. And like Wizard of Oz and It’s a Wonderful Life before it, repetition turned it from an indie horror hit to a modern mainstay and finally into an irrevocable classic.

In the early 1980’s I was an 8-year-old kid sneaking down into the basement after my parents were asleep to watch episodes of “Night Flight” – USA network’s 4-hour block of music videos, short films, and a feature. Usually the films were music themed – concert films or album length music videos – but they occasionally strayed into the realm of cult and exploitation. The number of times they ran Night of the Living Dead without paying Romero probably borders on the criminal. But those hours, spent huddled in the dark of that basement, lit only by the glow of that old 19” cathode ray TV, watching that movie for the umpteenth time, is forever burned on the back of my brain.

I saw it that way so many times that I quoted along not only with the movie, but with the trivia anecdotes that punctuated the commercial breaks in between. And in the years that followed, I would watch his other works, and other director’s derivative works, and other director’s “really” derivative works, and even the occasional homage or two, and I found myself wondering: where would we be in the horror genre if one of our seminal voices hadn’t been so readily available, accessible even to 8-year old future horror filmmakers who had yet to get their hands on their first VCR? Would Night still be the so burned into our brains, such a part of the fabric of the genre, so much a part of the language that makes up the conversation of horror? I know I wouldn’t be the filmmaker or genre writer I am without his influence – without so much exposure to his mix of camp and comedy and horror and philosophizing and gore and darkness and human depravity, always woven together in a fun, exciting package.

Romero was an icon. He didn’t just invent a monster; he invented a subgenre. What he did was akin to inventing the western. It’s not just a movement, it’s a story that will, somewhat ironically, outlive us all.

– C. Robert Cargill

George A. Romero

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

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