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Bill Hinzman, Night of the Living Dead

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.

He was 75.

According to reports, Hinzman died of cancer at his Pennsylvania home on Sunday night.

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

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."

In a video interview he gave at a 2010 horror convention, Hinzman quipped that "I was in the movie because I was tall and skinny and had an old suit!"

After Night of the Living Dead, Hinzman acted in over a dozen films, many of them horror-themed. He also wrote and directed two horror flicks in the late '80s, The Majorettes and FleshEater.