Fans say final goodbye to 'Godfather of zombies' George Romero at visitation

Fans of acclaimed horror film director George A. Romero gathered Monday for a visitation at Mount Pleasant cemetery in Toronto.

The legendary director, George Romero, died of lung cancer in his Toronto home last Sunday

Director and writer George Romero poses for a photograph while talking about his film "Diary of the Dead' at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Monday, Jan. 21, 2008. Romero shot the first of his five zombie films, 'Night of the Living Dead', nearly four decades ago. (Amy Sancetta/Associated Press)

Tal Zimmerman knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life from the moment he saw his first George Romero film as a young kid.   

"In a lot of ways, his films gave me an identity. The first time I ever watched Dawn of the Dead, I knew what I wanted to pursue in my life. I was 12 or 13 years old and from that moment on, I've just been lapping up as much horror stuff as I could," he told CBC.

Decades later, as a film critic and actor with at least one horror film documentary under his belt, he was one of many fans who showed up to a public visitation for Romero, widely lauded as the "godfather" of the zombie genre.

Tal Zimmerman, who created the documentary Why Horror?, credits George Romero with inspiring his career. (Nazarahari/CBC)

The visitation was held at Mount Pleasant cemetery on Monday.

Romero died in his Toronto home of lung cancer last Sunday. He was 77.

He is probably best known for his Dead trilogy; Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, but made a number of horror flicks, as well as a TV series.

David Misek, a horror aficionado who came out to the visitation, says the striking thing about Romero's zombie films is their human conflicts.

Promotional poster for Night of the Living Dead. (IMDB)

"It's about the total collapse of society. It was always about how people treated others during times of crisis," said Misek. "There was a lot of political commentary, some social commentary."

One particular scene in Night of the Living Dead, where the film's main black character survived flesh-eating revenants in a plethora of chilling situations, only to be shot dead by gun-toting humans at the end of the film, has been cited as racial commentary. But, in a 2010 interview with Time's Magazine, Romero said the racial theme was "accidental."

However fluky it may have been, Jordan Peele, director of the critically acclaimed thriller, Get Out, credited Romero as an inspiration. Peel's film is widely reviewed as an extensive representation of race relations in America.

Aaron Allen, director of the horror film festival, Hexploitation, also credits Romero with his interest in horror. He said in an interview that Romero really resonated with him because he was "an average guy."

"He was a blue-collar guy, really down-to-earth. His stuff had criticisms of the upper class and satire of wealth and greed," said Allen.

Aaron Allen, director of the horror film festival Hexploitation, says Romero's movies were all about human conflicts. (Nazarahari/CBC)

Romero's Night of the Living Dead cost about $100,000 to make, and although it received harsh reviews at the time of its release, it became a cult classic that spawned a generation of stiff-limbed, flesh-eating creatures of the night.  

George Romero will be buried in Toronto where he lived the last decade of his life. 

With files from Nick Boisvert