I talked about discovering Romero's work back in "My Heroes Have Always Been Monsters Part 36" and the huge impact his Dead films had on my life as a kid trying to be a writer. At the annual Humanities Fest in 1992 I entered a short story called "Bios-Fear" that I "dead-icated" to Romero. It was, of course, a zombie story about people fleeing across the country trying to stay ahead of the zombie outbreak, many people escaping by plane to Hawaii, only to have zombies emerge from the ocean, marching on to the beach months later. I ripped off the ending from The Ghost Galleon, from the Blind Dead series, but the rest of the story was purely inspired by Romero's Dead films, I even named all the characters after actors from the three films. From that point there has always been a piece of Romero in everything I do. Cronenberg and Lynch may have had the biggest influence on me overall, but Romero was ground zero for everything I wanted to become. His spirit of independence and the heart and intelligence he infused into gory B-films, elevating them to pieces of art will always be something I lean on with every new story or book I write.
I never got to meet Romero, but his passing hurt really bad. It helped that day to be on Twitter interacting with others who were crushed by his death. We celebrated him and it was cathartic and I felt a little better at the end of the day. Hollywood may have churned out Happy Meal versions of his films instead of funding his vision, but his fans and friends knew how important he was. He was a giant who lifted others to heights they may not have achieved on their own. In these dire times we're going through right now, we could use a Romero flick to skewer our enemies and blow our minds with shocking visuals.
I woke up this morning and put on Dawn of the Dead. The film is still a striking masterpiece and a standard bearer of our genre. I've watched Dawn more than any other movie, in fact I'm going to watch it again tomorrow when I show it to my kids. I think it's an important enough film and they're old enough to handle it. I hope it moves them the same way it moved me.
Peace and love to your spirit, George.