The Amusement Park is barely a movie in a conventional sense. With a runtime of only 52 mins, this long-lost piece of George A. Romero’s filmography was shot in 1973, and a more apt moniker would be to call this an episode of television. The eerie vibe, teachable lesson, and a host to both introduce and conclude the tale with a bookend means this would fit nicely as part of The Twilight Zone.
We follow an elderly gentleman (Lincoln Maazel) as he sets out for a normal day at—wait for it—an amusement park. He goes on roller coasters and plays bumper cars. One crash results in someone yelling “the only thing stupider than a woman driver is an old woman driver!” It becomes more chaotic as he gets lost, stumbling through the streets. Strange and bizarre, with minimal use of dialogue, the horror lies in the fear of aging and dementia. With no one to help, the terror of this poor man’s situation looms large. It’s decidedly different than flesh-eating zombies or masked killers. The killer is old age itself.
This was a rejected PSA about elder abuse that Romero was commissioned to execute by a Lutheran Society, and it isn’t hard to see why they didn’t want to show to anyone. The Amusement Park wallows in its bleakness. The host warns us right from the offset. “Remember as you watch the film: one day you will be old.” What at first feels like a documentary about old people stumbling around an amusement park with little aim or purpose evolves into something more. Abandonment and mental illness frequently make it an ugly viewing, and that is before we arrive in “the white room,” desolate and destroyed. I don’t see myself revisiting this anytime soon, but I am mostly just glad that Romero fanatics finally have a new product from the director all these years later. That final line gave me chills, and is the perfect way to close it out: “I’ll see you in the park someday.”
The Amusement Park gets lost exclusively on Shudder on June 8th.