Zombie movie maestro George A. Romero has died at age 77.
The Night of the Living Dead writer/director died Sunday from lung cancer, his manager Chris Roe confirmed to the Associated Press. Romero wrote on Facebook in May that he was fighting a respiratory infection.
He died while listening to the score of The Quiet Man, one of his favorite films, with his wife Suzette and daughter Tina by his side, his family said in a statement.
The Los Angeles Times was first to report the news of his death.
After developing a cult following with his small-budget 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, Romero put out plenty of zombie films, including Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985) and the more recent Land of the Dead (2005).
When his first movie about undead flesh-eaters came out, "nobody wrote about it in any kind of context at all," Romero told USA TODAY in 2010. "If anyone wrote about it, it was to say, 'You need to control these crazy filmmakers! Look what they'll do!' "
Decades later, however, Romero found that his work over-appreciated.
"People write their thesis about it," he said. "I don't think it deserves half of the treatises about it."
As Romero learned, his stories about the undead have become cultural touchstones that inspired many filmmakers. A number of fans took to social media Sunday to share their condolences.
"A true legend," tweeted The Big Sick writer/star Kumail Nanjiani. "Started a new genre on his own. Who else can claim that?"
Dawn of the Dead "is one of the greatest films in the history of cinema. We were so much richer for having Romero in our lives," We Are Still Here writer/director Ted Geoghegan wrote.
"You were a genius, and I look forward to your inevitable return," tweeted The Secret Life of Dogs writer Brian Lynch.
Horror movie writer Joe Harris called Romero's death a "huge loss."
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