An elderly gentleman goes for what he assumes will be an ordinary day at The Amusement Park, only to find himself in the middle of a hellish nightmare instead.
In 1973, the Lutheran Society employed George A. Romero to direct a Public Information Film. One about the elder abuse and the problems the older generations faced in society. Apparently the Lutherans were so disturbed by what they saw, they never released it. What they expected to get from the director of Night Of The Living Dead and The Crazies is anyone’s guess. You know the old saying. You can take the director out of the horror movie but you can’t take the horror movie out of the director.
46 years later, a print was found, remastered and now available for the world to see. Like a twisting, turning queue that snakes for hours round Disneyland before you get to ride Space Mountain, would it be worth the wait?
Bookended by scenes featuring the film’s actor Lincoln Maazael, he sets the scene. The funfair you are about to see is a metaphor to how old people feel treated by society, and a warning to pay close attention because one day you will have a ticket to ride this train!
It is a bit heavy handed with the metaphors but that is the point of the film. As Garth Merengi once said “I know writers who use subtext and they’re all cowards”. So pensioners are forced to sell their possessions to gain entry to the park; arrested for causing a pile up on the bumper cars without a valid driving licence; charged a fortune when they are forced to visit the first aid tent, etc.
What Romero does is use the bare bones of the script provided by the Lutherans to produce a surrealist nightmare where one septuagenarian has the worst time at an amusement park since the Griswolds went on Vacation.
The glimpses of a Bergman-esque Grim Reaper stalking in the background or riding a carousel; the way the traditional fairground music evolves into something that inspires a creeping sense of dread; the sharp, jerky camera movements that make it feel like it is attacking the protagonist. Rather than the “happiest place on earth”, it is transformed into somewhere that Disney have all the fun of the fair.
The Amusement Park is a fascinating curiosity and a must-see for Romero fans.
The Amusement Park is available to stream with Shudder from 8th June.
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Lincoln Maazel
Runtime: 52 minutes