The Amusement Park Review – Show Your Elders Some Respect

The Amusement Park

George A. Romero became a legend in the horror community for inventing the modern-day zombie film. Unfortunately, he lost the rights to Night of the Living Dead because of some copyright snafu. Since then, he has struggled to find work. He went on to direct various low-budget features like The Crazies and The Season of the Witch. He even went on to direct some television sports documentaries. Then, in 1973, the Lutheran Services in Pittsburgh commissioned George A. Romero to create a film that raises awareness about the horrors of elder abuse and elderly discrimination.

The Amusement Park follows an elderly man (Lincoln Maazel) 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.”

Romero shot the 52-minute film in the former West View Park amusement park and used this setting as an allegory. However, the educational film became something completely different than the Lutherans expected with Romero at the helm. Romero took this ordinary project and made it extraordinary. He created such an artistically unsettling and hellish film.

The godfather of the zombie genre takes more of an experimental arthouse approach here. Despite a different visual approach, his criticism of society never went away. Romero’s filmography has always had not-so-subtle jabs at humans and institutions. Night of the Living Dead was a compelling critique of racism, while Monkey Shines analyzes the nature of human desires. So The Amusement Park was tailor-made for George Romero.

The Amusement Park shows that he can create a disturbing and horrific film without zombies.

With a limited budget, Romero uses various situational vignettes to get the film’s point across. Several vignettes are solid in execution, such as the grim reaper wandering the park and riding coasters. This concept is a startling juxtaposition between the fun and frightening. Then some are plain hokey, such as the mock dinner since it has a Looney Tunes tone to it. All in all, The Amusement Park uses various vignettes to terrorize Lincoln Maazel to make him feel unwanted, feeble and beaten down.

As you can imagine, Lutheran Services was not thrilled about the final product. They ultimately shelved it, and it’s been in purgatory since then. It isn’t until the archivists at the University of Pittsburgh recently discovered it in the Romero archives. After working together with the George A. Romero Foundation, IndieCollect has tirelessly worked to restore the film in 4K. 

George Romero has been a director that has never gotten the respect he deserved until he died in 2017. It’s taken all these years for Hollywood to realize that Romero is not just a “zombie” director. The Amusement Park shows that he can create a disturbing and horrific film without zombies. Thanks to Shudder, now the world can see that too.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

The Amusement Park will be exclusively on Shudder on June 8th.

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