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The Amusement Park

The Amusement Park

The Amusement Park

Synopsis:
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.
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A “lost” film by George A. Romero is restored and finally released 46 years after its completion with . An optimistic elderly man () spends a day at an amusement park. However, this fairground turns out to be a living metaphor for the way society ignores and mistreats the older population. The man struggles to find some sort of connection on this very hectic day.

While he was still in the early years of his career, George A. Romero was hired by the Lutheran Society to create what was essentially a PSA about elder abuse and how we have to show respect to our elderly. The result was this 54-minute horror film starring Lincoln Maazel, who would go on to appear in Romero's 1977 film Martin, in the duo role of the unnamed elderly protagonist, as well as the bookending narrator of the film. Through the film's sound design and editing, Romero tries to make to audience feel what exactly it's like for the elderly, who are the victim of confusion and scorn by the rest of society.

There are many reasons to surmise why The Amusement Park has been considered lost for nearly 50 years. One of the reasons is that The Amusement Park was produced by George A. Romero as a work-for-hire PSA for the Lutheran Society, who was reportedly not happy with how extreme the final product was. Another reason was that Romero didn't think much of the film, until a 16mm print was unearthed in 2017, a few weeks before the filmmaker's death. Following Romero's death, his widow Suzanne Desrocher-Romero founded the George A. Romero Foundation, with the restoration of The Amusement Park being one of the foundation's first major projects.

Despite being a film that was made in 1973, the truly scary thing about The Amusement Park is that the film's messages about elder abuse are just as relevant today as it was 46 years ago. The film is particularly timely in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which revealed how poorly the residents of for-profit long-term care homes are treated. Despite being primarily known at the time for Night of the Living Dead and The Crazies, George A. Romero opted to take a more grounded approach with The Amusement Park, focusing primarily on the real-life horrors of the mistreatment of the elderly, with some of the key scenes in the film including an idyllic young couple receiving a horrific fortune-teller reading and the protagonist's one moment of calm late in the film being forcibly taken away from him. Then, the haunting “white room” bookend scenes suggest that the abuse this elderly man experiences is doomed to repeat.

While The Amusement Park doesn't have much to offer in terms of narrative, with its 54-minute running time quickly speeding by, the film still stands alongside the social commentary that was quite persistent throughout Romero's filmography.

The Amusement Park is now streaming on Shudder


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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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