George A. Romero’s The Amusement Park is a nightmarish 53 minutes. Recently found and restored from its original production in 1973, the story deals with an interesting yet profoundly disturbing viewpoint of getting old.
We accompany Lincoln Maazel’s character as he takes a trip around an amusement park. Following a brief monologue about being alive from Maazel at the start, the narrative works fast, throwing us about like we are on our own fairground ride. The amusement park itself may seem somewhat normal, but with a white room addressed just for elders, the ever-growing sense of fear begins to build. Originally intended for the Lutheran Society, it plays out like one big advertisement for aging. It’s more of a warning of what will come rather than what could come. Maybe because of this advertisement-like feeling, it doesn’t compare to Romero’s other classics. Its uniqueness, however, does still make it stand out.
Maazel’s character suggests that we will experience our own amusement park upon getting old. The Amusement Park is not a happy place. It is not somewhere that you would want to end up. It genuinely feels uncomfortable at times to watch. The build-up of eerie sound, clanging bars, and loud bangs is unsettling. Many close-ups of characters we never get to know, yet seem so important to the unfolding story. Even a POV shot on a fairground ride makes it feel like we are there. Is this really a fun day out, or is it all of our pending futures as we grow old? Our lives that we hold ahead of us seem to be in the hands of Romero.
The repetition back to the white room that we see at the start and the end could be showcasing that it’s all in Maazel’s head. As we grow older, we are picking up pieces of our own amusement parks. We are collecting items and storing them in our heads until it becomes too much to navigate. Maazel becomes increasingly concerned. He doesn’t want to be inside of his own head anymore. It’s sinister in more aspects than one. With such a short runtime, we don’t have time to feel for Maazel. While the credits roll, however, we reflect onto our own imminent doom. It doesn’t need to be lengthier. It works perfectly as a shorter film. If any longer, it could face becoming too repetitive.
Striking visuals add to the whirlwind of emotions that Maazel is experiencing. It certainly has that 70’s horror feel to it. Despite the narrative being clear with the message that it’s trying to portray, it does feel ambiguous. Who is this man we are following? Why are his signs of aging more important than anyone else’s? Romero does have this sense of vagueness sometimes in his features, but usually, everything is revealed by the end. In The Amusement Park’s case, it all is. It also does feel slightly too distressing to revisit. It’s definitely a one-time watch for me.
Such a terrifying piece from Romero. This really is like no other. Venture into The Amusement Park if you dare.
R.I.P. George A. Romero. The Amusement Park is now streaming on Shudder.
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