“The Amusement Park” – Movie Review

Given George A. Romero’s tragic passing in 2017, the world thought that we had seen the very last of the filmmaker, and that his 2009 zombie sequel Survival of the Dead would be the final movie of his we ever got to see; until now that is.

Long thought to be lost, Romero’s early 70’s experimental, PSA film The Amusement Park has thankfully been restored, and is now widely available as a Shudder exclusive.  And honestly, where has this movie been for the past 40+ years?!

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It’s aesthetic is very late 60s/early 70s but it’s just as relevant today.

How it Became “Lost”
Back in 1973, George A. Romero, now a household name from the success of Night of the Living Dead, was commissioned by a Lutheran Society to make an educational/PSA film about elder abuse, in an attempt to encourage young people to not look down on the elderly, and to volunteer if they could.

And while the movie does open and close with lead actor Lincoln Maazel addressing the audience directly and telling them what the purpose of the film is, the final product proved to be “too much” for the church.  They were probably expecting something more straightforward like an actual documentary.

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It certainly feels like a documentary at times, which the handheld camera approach for certain scenes.

However, what Romero gave them was dramatic, tragic, and at times chilling.  It used the medium of film and narrative to drive its point home and did so very effectively.  But because it was too unconventional, the church wanted nothing to do with it, and thus it was never released and thought to be lost.

Then, decades later, a print was found in 2017 and given a 4K restoration by Indie Collect, and thus we have the finished film now!

Surreal, But Effective
The Amusement Park doesn’t present much in terms of an actual story or plot, rather it follows its lead character (played by Lincoln Maazel) as he goes through the titular park for the day, and bears witness to the cruel treatment of the elderly (including himself) at the hands of the young.

This includes, but is not limited to people getting impatient and short with them, swindlers taking advantage of their vulnerabilities, and a constant barrage of insults suggesting that because they’re elderly and can’t “contribute” to society, they have no value.

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The whole thing is a somber reminder that all this really happens…

What really resonates about Romero’s experimental PSA is that its themes are just as relevant now as they were 40+ years ago when the film was shot.  Which honestly makes it all the more tragic.  It reveals a vicious cycle where we disregard the elderly until such time as we become the elderly but it’s too late.

Romero was always known for infusing social commentary in his movies, and that’s very much on display here.  It speaks to the relevance of the movie that Lincoln Maazel’s closing speech encouraging young people to volunteer, or at least to care and have compassion, is something we could all hear.

Who among us hasn’t gotten frustrated or impatient with someone older for not moving as quickly or efficiently?  Who among us hasn’t rolled our eyes or ridiculed an elderly person for struggling with a piece of technology that seems so easy to us?

The Amusement Park may have been made over 40 years ago, but the message that George A. Romero was trying to convey can still be received today.  It will make you angry, as well as sad.  But most importantly, it will also inspire you.

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It’s definitely more of a drama, but still horror-adjacent.

What did you think of The Amusement Park?  Has it inspired you to look at things any differently?  Let us know in the comments!

The Amusement Park is streaming exclusively on Shudder

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