Fans dress as zombies for George Romero memorial

TORONTO — Some grunted while others dragged their feet. Fans of George Romero went all out to give the legendary zombie director a suitable send off on Monday.

Dressed as versions of the monster he helped make infamous, dozens of people filed into a public memorial to say a final farewell to the man who rewrote the book on the living dead.

Leanne MacRae covered herself and her two young daughters in zombie makeup inspired by the flesh-eating ghouls who rose from their graves in the groundbreaking 1968 film Night of the Living Dead.

“The man was a legend in his time bringing the modern zombie into our lives,” said the Georgetown, Ont., resident, alongside her six- and eight-year-old girls.

“He certainly made it so normal to see a zombie just chewing on someone’s leg.”

Romero died last week following a battle with lung cancer, according to a statement from his family.

The director is credited with making zombies mainstream with his cult classic Night of the Living Dead, which was produced independently for US$100,000 and went on to become a staple of the genre. It spawned various sequels, including a 1990 remake.

Romero made other horror flicks, including Monkey Shines and Creepshow, though none were nearly as iconic.

The director moved to Toronto in 2004 where he shot many of his later films.

Inside the memorial, Romero’s wife and daughter greeted visitors, who spoke about how his vision changed horror cinema.

The room was decorated with memorabilia from the director’s own collection, including a photograph of him posing in vampire fangs alongside fellow horror master Stephen King and an award from the Toronto International Film Festival in 2009 that is a miniature version of the CN Tower clutched by a severed hand.

Toronto resident Eric Jackson has participated in many of the city’s zombie-walk events, which invite horror enthusiasts to don zombie makeup and stumble through the streets in character, so it seemed appropriate to bid a proper farewell to the godfather of the monsters.

“He really defined the modern zombie,” Jackson said while holding a bloody rubber leg.

“(Romero) took it out of its Haitian voodoo roots and turned it into something that has amazing staying power.”

A service for family and friends will be held in Toronto on Tuesday before a private ceremony on Wednesday.

Movie theatres in Toronto have booked showings of Romero’s films in the coming weeks, including an Aug. 6 screening of his last film, 2009’s “Survival of the Dead,” which will be attended by several members of the cast and crew.

Other tributes have popped up in recent days, including a billboard in Pittsburgh that features a zombie from his original Living Dead film with a teardrop running down her face.

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