If you want to give the credit or place the blame, for the idea of the zombie apocalypse, remember George Romero. Before “The Walking Dead,” “Fear The Walking Dead,” and “Z Nation” hit the air waves, not to mention movies without number when hordes of the flesh eating dead rose to threaten the living, there was Romero’s 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead.”

‘Night of the Living Dead’ started it all

Romero’s very first effort was the independently produced horror story about flesh eating zombies overrunning the Pennsylvania countryside, He produced the movie for the shoe string budget of just over $100,000, and it went on to be the most profitable independent horror film in history with a box office of over $12 million.

The story had all the hallmarks of zombie apocalypse films to come, with a small group of people trapped and under siege by the undead, with new reports suggesting that a wider phenomenon is occurring. The movie is a study of people under extreme stress, with some displaying heroism and other cowardice. “Night of the Living Dead’ also had an African American lead, one of the few films at that time. In 1968, with the assassination of Martin Luther King, the ethnic identity of the hero and what befalls him had an extra resonance.

‘Night of the Living Dead’ was controversial for its time, thanks to the gory special effects and the fact that, since the movie rating system was not in place when it was released, young children were admitted to what would have been an R rating film under the system.

Critics were pretty sure the movie was an example of the moral decline of cinema in particular and the country in general

Romero’s other work

Romero would return to the zombie apocalypse theme several times during his career with “Dawn of the Dead” (set in a shopping mall), “Day of the Dead” and “Land of the Dead.” His zombie apocalypse movies always had deeper subtext, examining consumerism, the conflict between science and the military, and the abolition of class conflict.

Romero non-zombie horror films included “Creepshow” (written by Stephen King) and “The Dark Half” base on a King novel. A bizarre non-horror film was “Knightriders” about an SCA-type group of people who travel from festival to festival and perform jousts on motorcycles. Stephen King has a cameo in the film.

George Romero died in his sleep after doing battle with lung cancer. His wife and daughter were at his side. No word yet as to whether he has risen from the dead to feast on the living.