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Fans dress as zombies as George Romero's love of cinema is put on display at memorial

Leanne MacRae, and her daughters Miranda and Juliette attend a memorial service dressed up as zombies, to pay tribute to zombie film director George Romero, who passed away at the age of 77, at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, in Toronto, Ont., Monday July 24, 2017.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
July 25, 2017 - 7:00 AM

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.

A few were dressed as versions of the monster he helped make infamous, while 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 film, which was released on the cusp of the independent movement that defined 1970s cinema. Produced for a just US$100,000, "Night of the Living Dead" went onto become a staple of the genre. It spawned various sequels, including a 1990 remake, and plenty of imitations.

Romero made other horror flicks, including "Monkey Shines" and "Creepshow," but 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.

Movie posters he amassed for Hollywood classics such as Marlon Brando's "On the Waterfront" and John Wayne's "The Quiet Man” were hung on the walls near his personal sketches and his passes for the Cannes Film Festival from the late 1970s.

Above Romero's casket, a projection screen showed a selection of movies from throughout his career, including "Survival of the Dead" and "Martin," while musical scores from movies by Steven Spielberg and other famous filmmakers played in the background.

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 bloodied fake leg.

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

But while Romero was known for wholeheartedly embracing the gruesome, some visitors grappled with exactly what was appropriate for the filmmaker's memorial service.

Many chose to wear black while some pulled out movie-themed T-shirts for his past films. A popular choice was the poster for 1978's "Dawn of the Dead."

"I was like, 'Are we crossing a line if I bring out zombies?'" said Thea Munster, a local zombie-walk organizer.

"The godfather of the zombie might want to rest for a day ... but then he might have loved it."

She decided to forgo the gore for a conservative black dress.

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.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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