It is four years since we lost the horror master George A. Romero, but the recent restoration of his long forgotten film, The Amusement Park, has proved that even from beyond the grave Romero can prove he was always ahead of his peers. In its simplest terms, the story of The Amusement Park is about an elderly man who visits the titular park, but finds himself stuck in the middle of a hellish nightmare. The film was original made in 1973, to be used as an educational video about ageism and the abuse of older people, but the Lutheran Society, who commissioned the picture, decided it was too disturbing to use.
As is the case with so many “lost” works by some of cinema’s greats, the short film, which has a runtime of just 52 minutes, was destined to be a thing of myth until in 2017 a print of the work was discovered and released as part of a retrospect of the director at the Torino Film Festival in 2019. Once the movie was out there and known about, it was given a 4K transfer by IndieCollect and is released on Shudder’s horror streaming platform after the acquired the rights to show it back in February of this year.
The film has received a huge response from critics and fans of George A. Romero, gaining a 93% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, with some reviewers having no problem giving it a sold 10/10, commenting “I can’t remember the last time a film shook me like this.” While there are some who could not quite gel with the movie’s segmented style, bearing in mind its original purpose as an educational film rather than a coherent narrative story, it is, like most of Romero’s work, the images and air of dread that soaks from every scene that makes it the work of a true master of their craft.
It is clear from the work that Romero wanted to make a statement about how he felt that America, and possibly even the world as a whole, was designed for the sole purpose of degrading and belittling the elderly. Considering Romero would only be 33 when making the film, he had an axe to grind and grind it he did. He could almost see the future coming, a world heavily driven by corporate giants and the grasping hands of capitalism that would push life in ways that suited it no matter what the consequences to some. His greatest achievement with the film, is showing how the acts he depicts are not only for one generation but are a never ending cycle that continues on unless a something happens to force a change.
Just like many of Romero’s best pictures, he doesn’t attempt to be subtle in getting across his message, and his scathing satirical flair, as was seen in the likes of Night of Living Dead and Dawn of The Dead, is great to see one more time. While many “lost” movies are best kept that way, The Amusement Park is one that very much deserves to have a place next to Romero’s other great works.
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