The Amusement Park
Almost 50 years after its production, George A Romero’s The Amusement Park is finally open to experience. And this is no ordinary thrill ride. The godfather of zombie movies often used his films to express deeper societal themes and this psychological thriller is no exception. It harrowingly depicts the invisibility of ageism and elder abuse through the story of a man’s nightmarish treatment in a theme park.
Singer Lincoln Maazel, who has only acted in two features (the first in 1977, also by the same director), inhabits the lead role of an everyday gentleman who’s about to follow a winding course through an amusement park in Pittsburgh, oblivious to the horrible treatment that awaits him. As the protagonist navigates his way around the attractions, he finds himself drawing the short stick at every encounter: he’s ignored, pushed over, yelled at, verbally abused and left alone with no dignity or respect.
The claustrophobia of these scenarios is emitted through chaotic shots and disorienting editing – aesthetically, it looks like a relative to Nicolas Roeg’s terrifying masterpiece Don’t Look Now. The picture, which only runs for a brisk 53 minutes, humanises the elderly folks we pass by in our everyday lives and forget to consider whilst in the pursuit of our own selfish wants and needs.
Bookending the feature are direct addresses from Maazel, who offers sermons on the key themes and explains why it’s important for us to volunteer and help the older generation. These monologues are included because the movie was originally commissioned by the Lutheran SeniorLife non-profit, to raise awareness of ageism through onscreen material that could be played in community centers. Romero’s wife, Suzanne, has stated that the organisation did initially use the film but found it to be too disturbing and edgy for the target audience.
Watching almost half a century later, it is undoubtedly a tame viewing by today’s standards and the crude acting of those participating in Romero’s only work-for-hire project is certainly noticeable. The central idea of The Amusement Park, however, is still important – you’ll want to give your grandparents a hug after seeing this.
The Amusement Park is released on Shudder on 8th June 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Amusement Park here: