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George Romero Dies: Slash, Kirk Hammett, Rob Zombie and Vernon Reid Pay Tribute to Zombie Movie Pioneer

Frazer Harrison / Gareth Cattermole / Samir Hussein, Getty Images
Frazer Harrison / Gareth Cattermole / Samir Hussein, Getty Images

Influential horror director George A. Romero, whose pioneering filmography is led by the acclaimed 1968 release Night of the Living Dead, has died at the age of 77 after a battle with lung cancer, prompting social media tributes from fans around the world — including some of classic rock’s biggest horror fans, some of whom were inspired to go into filmmaking themselves.

One such artist is Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, whose Slasher Films production company put out its first release with 2013’s Nothing Left to Fear. Speaking with Rolling Stone several years ago about that project, he made his creative debt to Romero clear, saying, “Night of the Living Dead was a very ominous, haunting and brutal movie, and I remember specific scenes that have stayed with me all these years. Since then I’m more fascinated in — I love creepy stuff. I don’t go for psycho movies or people that run around killing each other.”

After hearing of Romero’s death, Slash took to Twitter to pay his respects, writing, “Trailblazer is an understatement. We will miss you.”

Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett shares Slash’s fondness for horror — and Romero in particular — and like Slash, Hammett has pursued horror-themed projects outside the band in recent years, including a book about the genre and his Fear FestEvil convention (where Slash appeared as a panelist in 2015).

“I’ve always had a penchant for things that were darker,” he told the Horror News Network in 2012. “I mean, when I watched horror movies as a kid, the best part for me was the monsters, the creatures, the villains. I guess it was easier for me to relate to that than the lighter, airier type of things. Walt Disney really didn’t do it for me … not like George Romero did.”

Hammett, who has his own zombie action figure, called Romero the “founding father of the modern zombie movie” in his own Twitter post, adding, “long live Romero!”

Rob Zombie‘s love of the Romero aesthetic should be fairly obvious to most people — even if they’ve never heard his music. The musician-turned-director, who’s carved out a singularly gory niche in the horror movie genre during his own filmmaking career, told the Orange County Register that “the concept of zombies for me all comes from movies,” particularly Romero’s works. “His films are the ones that pretty much solidified what people think of zombies as in their minds. Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are definitely two great films that I love.”

Zombie echoed those sentiments in his Twitter tribute to Romero, expressing stunned disbelief at the director’s passing and adding, “all the zombies owe him everything!”

As far as Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid is concerned, that’s a debt shared by everyone. Reid shared his own thoughts on Twitter, responding to fans of the director’s work and taking part in a conversation about the ways in which the Dead movies offered a variety of commentaries and observations that were subversive for the time — not least the fact that Night of the Living Dead‘s lead character was played by African-American actor Duane Jones.

“There were VERY few films That honestly took on the fear & distrust of race with that level of raw honesty. Horror was the only genre capable,” wrote Reid. “The sheer courage to cast Duane Jones as Ben in Night of the Living Dead is what made Director George A. Romero an American Hero.”

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