A giant has fallen:

Bill Hinzman, the actor who helped usher in a revolutionary new era in horror with a key role in the seminal 1968 zombie film Night of the Living Dead, has died.

His daughter, Heidi Hinzman, said that her father asked to be cremated: “He always joked if he got buried he would come back.”

According to E! Online (what, you were expecting the New York Times?), he wasn’t supposed to be an actor in Night, but was dressed for the part:

Hinzman was revered by horror aficionados for his memorable turn in George A. Romero’s touchstone horror flick, in which he played the first zombie audiences see during the film’s opening moments. In the scene, Hinzman’s undead stalker attacks two siblings at a graveyard, killing one and chasing the other.

It cemented his status as a cult horror icon and earned him a lasting place in the global horror tradition, while the film itself has since been hailed as a classic for its fresh take on the genre.

Hinzman originally joined the production as an assistant cameraman until Romero decided to cast him as a zombie.

“We’d like to tell the story that it was a hard audition session,” said the film’s producer, Russ Streiner, “but Bill was there and old enough and thin enough and he had an old suit.”

Here’s Bill’s big scene, old suit and all (he comes in at 5:15):

In Bill’s honor, I thought I would give the WordPress poll feature a try. What do you think?