When it comes to zombie apocalypse stories today, the first title to come out would most likely be the “Walking Dead” series. Based on a long-running Image Comics title, it follows a group of people trying to survive while defending themselves from zombie hordes and other more violent, near-inhuman survivor groups. But the AMC show seems better known these days, mostly for seeming to run for multiple seasons of utter bleakness and audience apathy. In fact, the atmosphere of the series was called out recently by George Romero, a director of classic zombie films starting with “Night Of The Living Dead.” Unfortunately, that seems to be the last word on the subject from the cinematic legend, who died Sunday.

Listening to music

George Romero has been struggling with lung cancer for some time, but on July 16 he finally succumbed at the age of 77, according to Peter Grunwald, his longtime film producer partner. Grunwald also noted the manner of the director’s passing, was “peacefully in his sleep” while listening to the musical score of “The Quiet Man” and surrounded by his family: wife Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter Tina Romero. The 1952 film, starring John Wayne and directed by John Ford, had been one of Romero’s lifelong favorites.

Born in 1940 New York City, George Romero came into the moviemaking limelight with his first feature-length film “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968. It was a horror film worth $114,000 in budget and featured zombies with innovative characteristics popularized by Romero.

“Living Dead” soared past critical reviews to become a hit with an audience that would grow to appreciate his blood-and-gore cinematic style. Such was its milestone status that the movie was later colorized and would eventually become something of a Halloween tradition in either local TV programming or simply home viewing with friends and family.

Franchise of the living dead

It could be considered good fortune by zombie-genre fans that George Romero’s film ventures immediately after “Night of the Living Dead” were acclaimed. That meant when “Dawn of the Dead”, a sequel to “Night”, premiered not only to box office success but critical recognition and from there a franchise was developed by Romero that would last up until 2009, counting several remakes of his original films.

Since then however, the Romero zombie archetype has been taken over by that of “The Walking Dead,” the TV series which is up for an eighth season this October.

The death of Romero is deeply mourned by his fans and various colleagues and collaborators in the filmmaking industry. "Sad to hear my favorite collaborator--and good old friend--George Romero has died. George, there will never be another like you," fellow horror legend Stephen King said. Peter Grunwald sums it up best as he said, "[Romero] leaves behind a loving family, many friends and a filmmaking legacy that has endured, and will continue to endure the test of time."