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George Romero, ‘Night of the Living Dead’ creator, dies at 77

Director George A. Romero of zombie movie fame died Sunday. (Malcolm Taylor/Getty Images)

George Romero, creator of the classic 1968 film “Night of the Living Dead,” died on Sunday. He was 77.

The director died in his sleep following a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” according to a statement provided to the LA Times, from Romero’s producing partner Peter Grunwald. He died with his wife and daughter by his side while listening to the score of one his favorite films, 1952’s “The Quiet Man.”

“Night of the Living Dead” became a cult classic and launched the zombie genre of movies. Romero’s sequels included 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead,” 1985’s “Day of the Dead,” 1990’s “Land of the Dead,” 2007’s “Diary of the Dead” and 2009’s “George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead.”

Romero’s zombie movies set the rules imitators lived by: Zombies move slowly, lust for human flesh and can only be killed when shot in the head. If a zombie bites a human, the person dies and returns as a zombie.

His zombies, however, were always more than mere cannibals; they were metaphors for conformity, racism, mall culture, militarism, class differences and other social ills.

“The zombies, they could be anything,” Romero told The Associated Press in 2008. “They could be an avalanche, they could be a hurricane. It’s a disaster out there. The stories are about how people fail to respond in the proper way. They fail to address it. They keep trying to stick where they are, instead of recognizing maybe this is too big for us to try to maintain.

Romero also directed “There’s Always Vanilla,” “Season of the Witch” and “The Crazies,” but he was best known for his zombie movies.