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  Amusement Park, The I Warn You Not To Grow Old
Year: 2019
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Lincoln Maazel, various
Genre: Horror, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: This is actor Lincoln Maazel and at seventy-one years old, he counts himself lucky to be still working. He is introducing a public information film on the perils of ageing, a matter that should be of interest to everyone who plans to get old, for what they find when they are up in years may not be as appealing or as restful as they would hope for. The following scenario will demonstrate all the ways the elderly can be marginalised and abused by a society that does not like to think about them, nor what they represent. It is intended to be a lesson.

Yes, American horror maestro George A. Romero directed a public information film, as they are called in Britain, or a public service announcement as they would have been termed in his native United States at the time. There were a lot of these about in the nineteen-seventies, and it seemed every responsible pressure group or matter of social concern received its time in the sun with these efforts, which were often barely a minute or two long. Others, however, took more space to examine their subjects, and Romero had been hired by Lutherans to do so.

Once those religious types saw what he had dreamt up, a no holds barred delivery of their message whose filmography they had not delved into as thoroughly as they should, otherwise they would be aware this man directed Night of the Living Dead, they declined to release it, and the film sat mouldering in the vaults until after the great man had passed away. That death, and possibly guilt that he had helmed so few projects in the years before his passing despite being well capable of it, increased interest in his unfinished projects as well as the finished ones.

And The Amusement Park had actually been finished, so it was spruced up and given its premiere, decades after its 1973 date of completion, to much interest from the horror community. Some proclaimed it a rediscovered masterpiece from the man who invented zombies as we know them in fiction now, while others were more guarded, but all were agreed that message was ruthlessly put across. Maazel played a nice old gent, decked out in a white suit, who on meeting his future self in a state of distress ventures out regardless to the park of the title only to experience indignity piled on indignity as he realises through bitter experience the ghastliness of how elders are treated in a cold, uncaring community.

Romero did not use gore in these horror-derived techniques, though the old man does get knocked around and bloodied, what made this unnerving was the "there but for the grace of God goes you" mood of the piece. The elderly trapped on welfare as their bodies break down, or they are exploited by landlords, accused of being degenerates should they even consider talking to a child, robbed now their senses are not as sharp as they once were, and even attacked because they are regarded as easy targets due to their vulnerability, the list of insults went on, making death (seen as a background character) the only release from this misery. Obviously, Romero made a number of films about death, after a fashion, but here he was using fantastical stylings to relate some home truths. If it was rather primitive, that was down to the lack of funds available, but Maazel was accomplished in his pathos, and as an example of an educational film directed by a horror master, it was exactly what you would hope for.

[Premieres 8 June 2021 **A Shudder Exclusive Film.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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George A. Romero  (1940 - 2017)

American writer/director and one of the most influential figures in modern horror cinema, whose ability to write strong scripts and characters match his penchant for gory chills. The Pittsburgh native began his career directing adverts before making Night of the Living Dead in 1968. This bleak, scary classic ushered in a new era of horror film-making, but Romero struggled initially to follow it up - There's Always Vanilla is a little-seen romantic drama, and Jack's Wife was butchered by its distributor. The Crazies was a flop but still an exciting slice of sci-fi horror, and while the dark vampire drama Martin again made little money but got Romero some of the best reviews of his career and remains the director's personal favourite.

In 1978 Romero returned to what he knew best, and Dawn of the Dead quickly became a massive international hit. Dawn's success allowed Romero to make the more personal Knightriders, and he teamed up with Stephen King to direct the horror anthology Creepshow. The intense, underrated Day of the Dead, spooky Monkey Shines and half of the Poe-adaptation Two Evil Eyes followed. The Dark Half, based on Stephen King's novel, was Romero's last film for nine years, and he returned in 2000 with the strange Bruiser. A fourth Dead film, Land of the Dead, was released in 2005, and lower budgeted fifth and sixth instalments rounded off the decade.

 
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