From The Amusement Park (1973), dir. George Romero (image courtesy Shudder)

Ever wonder what a 50-minute public service announcement about aging in the United States might look like if it was commissioned by the Lutheran Society and directed by George Romero? In The Amusement Park, the recently rediscovered and restored 1973 film by the father of the zombie movie, ageism and classism run wild in an allegory on the plight of the elderly. Though not exactly a horror film, it’s decidedly horrific, following various older characters as they suffer abuse within a claustrophobic theme park.

One man can’t drive a go-cart because he fails an eye exam. An unreasonable, extensive list of criteria prevents most of the seniors from riding the roller coasters — “Must not fear the unknown,” “Must have income over $3,500,” “Must not SUFFER from dizziness, high blood pressure, diabetes.” The one “ride” that does welcome them masquerades as a fun house, but inside, a cluttered nursing home awaits. The film is a portrait of how the US has long been a punishingly difficult place to live for those at the margins of its winner-take-all, work-till-you-drop capitalist infrastructure. Once you don’t meet the rigid able-bodied, financially sound requirements, you’ll get conveniently dropped.

YouTube video

The Amusement Park is now available to stream on Shudder.

Anthony Hawley is a New York-based multidisciplinary artist and writer. Recent solo projects were presented by the Salina Art Center; CounterCurrent in partnership with the Menil Collection & Aurora...