From my one viewing, it became evident that George Romero was not a zombie film director.”
Some 42 years have passed since George Romero kindly showed me The Amusement Park at his Latent Image office in Pittsburgh. I was knocked out when seeing it and wrote on it first in Cinema Spectrum, a short-lived 1980 film magazine published and edited by Manchester U.K. friend Harry Nadler (1940-2003) who later became co-founder of the Manchester Festival for Fantastic Films. I then wrote on it for the two editions of my George Romero book never thinking it would be rediscovered, let alone released, decades later.
I’m not going to speculate about what else may be in this version, apart from the memories I’ve written down elsewhere. I’ll wait instead to see this new release. Decades ago, one editor suggested it was O.K. to write about films one has never seen. (I, naturally, will leave this person anonymous.) However, I cannot do this so will leave you will some impressions which may be accurate, or not.
From my one viewing, it became evident that George Romero was not a zombie film director. He was much more than this label inaccurately attached to him. Instead, he used the genre to comment on social and historical issues in very much the same manner that traditional Gothic fiction reacted to the turbulent events of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe. Yes, “scary” features are there. But did not George often say to people, “Be very scared”? He had good reason. The Amusement Park deals with the plight of the senior citizen in America, the taboo on ageing and eventual decline, necessitating that ideological state of denial Gore Vidal once aptly described as “The United States of Amnesia.”
In The Amusement Park, Romero aptly combines fantasy with dark reality, revealing that in the hands of the most responsible artist, two diverse modes of representation combine in the most significant ways where scaring the audience is now done for contemporary banal special effects “cinema of attractions” purposes. Instead, it confronts the audience with the even grimmer realities they face today much more than nearly 50 years ago.
“Be scared”. Be very, very scared!
The Amusement Park will be available to stream from Shudder.
Tony Williams is an independent critic and a Contributing Editor to Film International.