The Amusement Park Review

Ageism is at the core of The Amusement Park, an odd delight from George Romero. His work was shelved, and rightly so, in a way. What was meant as an educational film is turned into a nightmare of abuse and torture for Lincoln Maazel’s fictionalized persona. As he opens up about the inadequacies of old age, the Romero charm is not felt. Not yet. Unsurprisingly, the man who touched upon the clashes of society in Night of the Living Dead with such horror was not going to go down the conventional route of a public service announcement. Shock the audience. Aim for the jugular. Romero was one of the best at that, and The Amusement Park defines that thoroughly well. 

“We intend for you to feel the problems,” Maazel states in his opening monologue. The amusement park in question is meant to represent the fears and elderly frights of ageing. Out of the white room, into the horrid reality of crippling old age. Broken bones and world-weary shoulders staggering about with the hustle and bustle of the soundtrack behind them. Romero does well to conjure up these moments, but the effectiveness is questionable. His desire to show the ticking time of old age as something to fear strikes far away from his point of living life as a free and opportune series of destinations to engage with.  

His undoing is within the substance. His style is intact and his ideas are marvellous. Elderly patrons trading in clocks has some sure-fire connection to how the ancient generations may feel, but it is inferring those notations that prove rather difficult. Perhaps it is the brevity of the piece, or the loose focus Romero has, but either way, he is not quite able to understand the problems and shortcomings of old age. Maazel does much of the lifting, though, providing a performance that sees him doubt his need in the world, bumping into people and apologising profusely. That’s all the elderly does, is it not? Apologise, get in the way, that’s what Romero adapts them as, and he adapts it with a chilling tenderness.  

One day, you will be old. A stern reminder that Father Time waits for no man. Treat others how we would like to be treated, but even then, how we want to be treated now will alter to how we want to be treated in our twilight years. That much is contained in the binary opposites. The white suit and scrubbed walls conjure purity and innocence, the bloodied stains the suit is coupled with enticing violence and fear. A haggard look on the face of Maazel indicates a lack of defiance. He makes peace with the horrors that await him, although, how realistic those horrors may be is ill-defined. Romero stabs at culture best when he does not know what it is he wants to say, take Dawn of the Dead as a glowing example of that, but The Amusement Park is an interesting pocket of themes, scenes and ideas that should gel a bit better than they do. Darker than expected, an essential contrast to the bright life found in the introduction to the rides and rollercoasters of the theme park. Life is a rollercoaster, although, for the elderly, Romero notes that it is down, down, down.  

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