The lost film referred to by the widow of zombie maestro George A. Romero as the late director’s “most terrifying” is finally seeing the light of day, and come June you’ll be able to experience Romero’s The Amusement Park, virtually unknown since it was first created in 1973. The rediscovered, seemingly experimental film is headed to horror streamer Shudder in the U.S., who have put out a first trailer for Romero’s lost gem.
What is The Amusement Park, though, exactly? Relatively unknown as a stage actor, the film stars Lincoln Maazel, who is known to horror fans through his appearance in one other Romero feature, 1978’s quasi-vampire story Martin. The Amusement Park, on the other hand, was originally commissioned by the Lutheran Society, which “wanted to create a film to raise awareness about ageism and elder abuse,” according to Indiewire. What Romero then delivered was described as being about “an elderly man who finds himself disoriented and increasingly isolated as the pains, tragedies, and humiliations of aging in America are manifested through roller coasters and chaotic crowds.” It was shot between two of the director’s best-known features, 1968’s Night of the Living Dead and 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, in the same year as Romero released The Crazies.
The Amusement Park was never properly released, however, and was seen by very few audiences. Those that have seen it suggest that the disturbing and disorienting nature of Romero’s finished product was not warmly received by the hapless Lutherans who commissioned it. Horror writer Daniel Kraus, who brought news of the film’s rediscovery to light two years ago, has seen the film and wrote that it was “a revelation,” “Romero’s most overtly horrifying film” other than Night of the Living Dead, and that The Amusement Park was “hugely upsetting in form and function.”
Likewise, film director and writer Tony Williams, who saw the film decades ago, reportedly wrote that The Amusement Park was “far too powerful for American society … It must remain under lock and key never seeing the light of day. It was never shown publicly. The people who funded it wouldn’t allow it. And no wonder. It’s hellish. In Romero’s long career of criticizing American institutions, never was he so merciless.”
Looking at the trailer below, you can get a sense of The Amusement Park as a disorienting, disembodied spectacle. The film is only 52 minutes long, so it may be more of an extended short film than a proper feature, but it looks harrowing all the same. Check out the first footage below.