RIP to the zombie horror master.

George A. Romero, the influential US filmmaker who created the Living Dead movie franchise, has died aged 77.

In a statement to the LA Times, Romero’s longtime producing partner Peter Grunwald said the director died in his sleep on Sunday (July 16) after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer.”

Night of the Living Dead, which Romero co-wrote and directed, was released in 1968 and was the first horror film to feature cannibalistic zombies. The low-budget movie spawned both a cult classic and a genre-defining series of zombie films, often with a sociopolitical message, including Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and 2009’s Survival of the Dead.

Romero went on to direct other films including the 1971 romantic comedy There’s Always Vanilla, 1978 vampire film Martin and 1982 Stephen King adaptation Creepshow.

Romero’s family said he died with his wife Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero at his side while listening to the score of “one of his all-time favorite films” – John Ford’s The Quiet Man.

Read next: The 100 greatest horror scores

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