George A Romero was never one to apply subtly to his cinematic art. He was always interested in transplanting his feelings about deep and still very relevant social issues in to the horror genre. His ideas about the military industrial complex, gross consumerism and class warfare still ring loudly in modern society, and “The Amusement Park” fits right in to that stark tableau. Although not horror in the strictest sense, “The Amusement Park” is very much a Romero brand horror movie. It’s about the ravages of growing old, and how society treats the elderly.
Beginning with an introduction by star Lincoln Maazel, we center on a battered old man sitting in a sterile white room. He’s approached by a dapper elderly man who insists on going outside to explore the world. Despite the previous battered man’s refusal, he ventures out in to the amusement park. But it’s not any amusement park, it’s the amusement park where life separates everyone by generation and age, and he begins to learn that the older people there get the shorter end of the stick.
“The Amusement Park” is a very on the nose and bleak tale about how society treats the elderly and how the fate of growing is inescapable. Recently discovered and restored almost fifty years after its completion by the George A. Romero Foundation (and produced by Suzanne Desrocher-Romero), “The Amusement Park” is a stark and very bizarre film, but one that wears its message on its sleeve. Even at a young age, Romero clearly dreaded growing old, while also setting a light on how older people are treated in this country. It’s a very apropos film for someone that grew up around the sixties, and held his social consciousness, and clear cynicism close to his heart.
“The Amusement Park” filmed shortly after “Night of the Living Dead” and retains much of its stark disgust at humanity and how rotten we are to one another. Lincoln Maazel is very good in a role that’s mostly bereft of dialogue and progresses through the Amusement Park with a very keen sense of optimism. The more he delves in to every ride and attraction, he finds it more and more difficult to not only enjoy himself, but also get the most out of the situation. This becomes especially true as his money offers him fewer rewards while he’s often ignored or alienated by the younger denizens of the park. “The Amusement Park” is very much symbolic of society as most of the attractions are based around catering to the young and upper class. The ticket taker even sells tickets as the elderly sell their livelihoods away for the sake of making it through the amusement park.
For 1973, “The Amusement Park” garners some sharp special effects, and is beautifully filmed with endless vignettes that feel ripped out of our worst nightmares. Romero holds no quarter for his audience, as he holds up a mirror to us and forces us to view the inherent injustices and dehumanization that society can inflict on the elderly. George A. Romero reveled in creating works of art that often inspired reactions from his audience. Whether vitriolic or pure acclaim, he always elicited a gut response with movies that explored the darker recesses of humanity we often ignored or dismissed. With “The Amusement Park” it’s another in a long line of bizarre, creepy, original glimpses in to humanity, one warranting exploration for any Romero buff.
Now in Limited Release and begins Streaming Exclusively on Shudder (Shudder US, Shudder CA, Shudder UKI, and Shudder ANZ), Tuesday, June 8th.