Three years after the 2017 passing of horror icon and directorial auteur George A. Romero, the godfather of the modern cinematic zombie, horror geeks may finally have an opportunity to see the lost Romero feature that his widow refers to as his “most terrifying film.” That movie is The Amusement Park, shot in 1973, never released and only recently rediscovered. According to Indiewire, Yellow Veil Pictures is handling the rediscovered film’s worldwide distribution rights, and has a 4K restoration of the movie with the approval of the George A. Romero Foundation, which was handled by New York’s IndieCollect. It’s now being shopped to distributors for either theatrical or VOD release.
Romero’s wife, Suzanne Desrocher-Romero, has called The Amusement Park Romero’s most terrifying film, and says “it has Romero’s unique footprint all over it.”
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.”
One thing is for certain: With descriptions like THAT, you’ll never be able to avoid horror geeks clamoring for the chance to see The Amusement Park. If the film’s cynicism and social commentary are indeed on par with something like Dawn of the Dead, we could have a lost classic on our hands.
Time will tell what distributor chooses to take a chance on The Amusement Park, but we have to imagine that someone will be eager for the opportunity to bring a 47-year-old George Romero movie back to life for the masses.