Monday, June 7, 2021

The Amusement Park (1973/2021)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Amusement Park (1973/2021)
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Length: 52 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Laurel Tape & Film, Lutheran Film Division, Potemkine Films, Shudder
Director: George A. Romero
Writer:  Wally Cook
Actors: Lincoln Maazel, Harry Albacker, Phyllis Casterwiler, Pete Chovan, Marion Cook, Sally Erwin, Michael Gornick, Jack Gottlob, Halem Joseph, Bob Koppler, Sarah Kurtz, Aleen Palmer, Georgia Palmer, Arthur Schwerin, Bill Siebart, Gabriel Verbick
Blurb from IMDb: An elderly gentleman goes for what he assumes will be an ordinary day at the amusement park, only to find himself in the middle of a hellish nightmare instead.

Selina’s Point of View:
If you are one of those people who is known to say, “they just don’t make horror films the way they used to” – then I have good news. The Amusement Park is a new old film. I don’t mean that in a hypothetical way.
The Amusement Park is a lost George A. Romero (The Crazies, Night of the Living Dead, Creepshow) flick that was filmed in 1973. It was found in 2018 and restored. That means that this old film, is completely new.
In this movie, Romero was trying to highlight the discrimination and abuse that elders face, despite the fact that the majority of us will eventually be a part of that group. He utilized an amusement park as a way to show how people treat the oldest generation and hypothesized that it’s because of our fear. Not just our fear of death, but our fear of being in their shoes.
It’s a heavy subject, and one that a newer film might have glossed over with significant gore and visual effects – but that would have altered the message. It might have separated it further from reality and made it all easier to swallow. In this presentation it’s raw and anxiety inducing.
Without the Hollywood beautification treatment, we’re left with the bare bones of a mockumentary/drama. We see a man entering his elderly years with hope, then quickly learning exactly why he was warned against that. We watch people steal from him, ignore him, treat him like a freak, and attempt to scam him.
If this had been released in the 1970s, it would have had the same kind of high ratings it will have now – but there’d be one difference.
The knowledge that the subject still holds water 50 years later, would be lost on us.

Everything shown in the film is recognizable today. The images and sounds may be distinctly 1970s, but the ideas translate through time.
We all make fun of those prank calls where someone tells us our computer is infected, or that they’re trying to contact us about our car’s extended warranty – but those calls aren’t directed at the majority of the population. They are looking for elderly people who don’t understand technology – or current-day business practices – so they can drain them for everything they’re worth.
Recent movies like I Care a Lot (2021) touch on subjects like this.
It’s a problem that has stretched through, at the very least, a half-century (likely longer).
I believe Romero was looking to force his audience to face the atrocities he outlined in The Amusement Park, and I think he succeeded. So much of it was an incredible sensory overload of anxiety and existential dread… and he did it without any of the horror tropes or visuals that we are used to. There was nowhere to seek comfort. No safe scenes.
It’s not a movie that’s going to be for everyone, but it’s still horrifyingly effective.
The Amusement Park will be available for streaming by Shudder on June 8.

Cat’s Point of View:
When you hear the name George A. Romero, the thoughts that follow generally flash to classic horror movies featuring zombies. Romero is fairly synonymous with the horror genre, in general. With that in mind, when you tell someone that a lost Romero film has been found and remastered for release, it might just spark a tingly feeling of anticipation – well, at least it did for me.
The Amusement Park wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. There are minimal amounts of blood. There aren’t any shambling zombies – at least, not by the genre’s modern definition. The horror here was very real all the same. This movie just unabashedly smacks you in the face that time is ticking, and one day death will come for us all. The Amusement Park also draws an effective parallel to remind us that life can be a circus or a rollercoaster at times, and there are swindling carnival barkers around every corner.

Even though I was warned going in that this would be a psychological horror movie and disturbing at a deep and visceral level, I still underestimated how profoundly it would impact me.

One of my deepest fears is reaching a point that I am trapped in my own head with the world going on around me without a chance for me to interact or communicate. While that wasn’t exactly the case here, it wasn’t that far a reach to envision that sort of situation. I am left rattled in the wake of the credits.
The Amusement Park was quite obviously filmed many years ago, and yet the flaws in society that the film brought to light are no better today than at the time of filming. It’s sad that all of our ‘modern advances’ in the decades that have passed have not created a better environment for the aging members of our population. The divide between the haves and have-nots and that created by racial bias is pretty much just as great now as then. Those that are affluent are afforded more care and consideration than those that lack such resources.
I could get on a soapbox and rattle on about this for days. I’ll spare you. The point is that The Amusement Park wasn’t merely meant to be a horror movie – it is also a call to action. It’s meant to make everyone think and put themselves in the protagonist’s shoes.

I don’t think I’d be able to recommend The Amusement Park enough. Change doesn’t happen from sitting idly by. Hopefully, this movie will spur change – of course, I’m an eternal optimist and so I can only hope for the best here. At the very least, Romero's movie forces us to consider our humanity in a very stark and unflinching manner. Perhaps the true horror here is that we, as a society, seem to be caught in a vicious loop to continue this pattern...and without change, what fate awaits us all? 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 91%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None 
IMDB Score – 7.1/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating5/5
Movie Trailer:

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