By: John Duarte
George A. Romero is well-known for his zombie movies, such as Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead, just to name a few. He’s also done some non-zombie horror movies, of course, like The Crazies, Martin, Monkey Shines, and Creepshow. Oh! - and how could I forget Knightriders? But have you heard of a little film he did for the Lutheran Film Division called THE AMUSEMENT PARK?
I didn’t either, until last year. Apparently, George’s wife Suzanne Desrocher-Romero didn’t know he made this film at all. But there have been several people out there wondering about this movie's existence. Forty-six years later, The George A. Romero Foundation and IndieCollect have officially restored THE AMUSEMENT PARK in 4K, and it's now been given a limited theatrical release as well as a streaming debut on Shudder on June 8th!
THE AMUSEMENT PARK stars Lincoln Maazel (from George A. Romero's Martin) as an elderly man 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.
I’ve now seen this twice for this review. Once as a screener, and then in a theater in Glendale, and both times, I was surprised at how horrifying this movie was. Although it’s not a horror movie, It’s a super dark movie about how people treat the elderly. It’s unfortunate that the themes are still relevant today - especially during the pandemic last year. The thing about George A. Romero is that he’s always great at putting social commentary in his movies.
I liked how the film opened with the main actor out of character, talking about how elderly people are treated - though he notes that we can change all that. He also explains before the movie starts that all the supporting cast members and elderly people in THE AMUSEMENT PARK are all volunteers just wanting to make this movie. Maazel goes on by explaining that the elderly volunteers said making this movie was “the only enjoyable time they’ve had in recent years”.
After the introduction, the film leads with Maazel sitting alone in a white room, beaten up like he'd recently been in a tussle. All of a sudden, the door opens, and we're looking at a cleaned-up, happier version of Maazel. He tries to talk to the downtrodden version... of himself. The happier Maazel wants to explore what’s outside, but downtrodden version just keeps warming him not to go. He goes outside anyway, and then it’s just one bad thing after another. This could’ve easily been an episode of The Twilight Zone.
Maazel’s portrayal of the elderly man was so heartbreaking, that seeing him go such a range of tragedies and emotion was uncomfortable at times, as a viewer. In addition to Maazel's character, we see other elderly people getting treated like they're useless. There's a particular scene, featuring a young couple who ask a fortune teller what they're going to be like when they're old, that's so painful, it's almost hard to watch. All in all, it's clear that THE AMUSEMENT PARK is not the place you want to be.
It’s too bad George A. Romero is no longer with us, because the themes and artistry of this movie put it right up there with his other beloved hits. THE AMUSEMENT PARK is a heartbreaking look at how people treat the elderly, and a major get for any Romero fans who have been dying for more content from the late horror genius. Well, the long await is almost over.
THE AMUSEMENT PARK is streaming exclusively on Shudder, beginning June 8th.