George A. Romero is most often associated with the zombie, thanks to his history-making depiction of them, beginning with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. While Romero’s zombies rose from the grave and devoured the flesh of the living, Romero’s monsters were never of the undead variety. One common thread throughout his impressive career demonstrated the filmmaker’s uncanny ability to keep a prescient pulse on society and reveal the monstrous underbelly of humanity.
Perhaps none emphasized this as much as the unearthed lost film The Amusement Park. Just over a year ago, Shudder debuted a restoration of the never before released PSA, a 60-minute descent into terror and heartbreak when an elderly gentleman sets out for a day of fun only to find abuse, mistreatment, and ostracization awaiting at every turn .
Now, Romero’s The Amusement Park heads home with a Blu-ray and DVD release from Shudder and RLJE Films.
To celebrate the Blu-ray and DVD release of the painstakingly restored film from 1973, we look back at many of Romero’s directorial works in the genre.
It wasn’t the zombies that ultimately doomed the eclectic group of survivors in Night of the Living Dead, but the clashing egos and personalities. Romero kept the focus on the humans trapped by horrific circumstances within a claustrophobic farmhouse. The pressure cooker scenario maintained steady pressure until all hell broke loose. The grim finale becomes all the more tragic, with so many missed opportunities for survival had everyone come together and cooperate.
Or, more specifically, had they just listened to the calm and resourceful Ben (Duane Jones), many would’ve lived through the night.
Romero switched gears for the follow-up, 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. During the widespread zombie invasion, four people retreat and attempt to hide in a shopping mall. The sequel increases the scale and gore but keeps it grounded with its keen observation of society and consumerism.
The third entry, 1985’s Day of the Dead, jumped ahead to an even more apocalyptic setting. This time remnants of humanity live in an underground bunker, with factions forming between the scientists and the military. They fundamentally disagree over whether to reform or slaughter all undead. Thanks to a cruel antagonist and an endearing zombie in Bub, Day of the Dead reversed the roles of human and monster here.
The final three entries in this franchise were released from 2005-2009 with Land of the Dead, Diary of the Deadand Survival of the Dead. Each one continued Romero’s knack for portraying human greed and selfishness as the true villains, with the zombies simply trying to exist in a new world.
Romero’s Literary Adaptations
The first was 1982’s creepshow, a stirring tribute to EC Comics in anthology form. The film marked Stephen King’s screenwriting debut and featured five tales of comeuppance and karmic retribution, each told in creative comic book style. Many of them were based on King’s short stories.
Then came Monkey Shines, an adaptation of Michael Stewart’s novel. A recent quadriplegic forms a bond with his service monkey, unaware that the monkey has been subjected to experiments to enhance his intelligence. It becomes a lethal problem with the animal developing an unhealthy attachment and a nasty jealous streak.
King and Romero teamed up once more with The Dark Half. Timothy Hutton stars as an author forced to confront his evil alter writing ego after he’s seemingly crossed over into the real world. Hutton plays both sides, the family man and the alter ego, to play up the duality of man.
Romero’s Standalone Horrors of Humanity
While Romero’s zombie features received the most attention, the filmmaker also released a handful of noteworthy features that underscored the weirder facets of humanity in more intimate settings. Martin followed a troubled young man who believed himself to be a vampire. The horror here isn’t just in some of the disturbing situations but in Martin’s addiction that sparked them. It’s an addiction horror story framed as vampirism.
The most dialogue-focused Season of the Witch revolved around an unhappy suburban housewife looking to shake up her life. She finds it, potentially, in witchcraft. Much like MartinRomero’s less interested in conventional horror here and uses it more as a loose framework for psychological unraveling.
The Crazies unleashed a rage virus that would render its infected homicidal maniacs if it didn’t kill them first. Romero didn’t hold back on the darkness as his characters struggled with violent symptoms and containing the virus. bruising followed a browbeaten man put upon and abused by nearly everyone around him until he was given a blank slate. The man wakes up faceless, allowing him to enact revenge undetected.
Each one gets intimate with our worst and darkest impulses.
The Amusement Park may have been intended as a PSA, but its horror is effective, and its themes are as apt as they are cutting. Check out this rare movie now on Blu-ray and DVD.