Closed for the Season
by Jason Coffman
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Too many low-budget films— and especially low-budget horror films— take familiar shapes, with stock characters, standard-issue plot twists, and off-the-shelf monsters. After watching even a few of these, any bit of originality and passion really stands out, and Closed for the Season certainly has both. Shot largely in an actual abandoned amusement park, Closed for the Season also has a spectacular location in the long-neglected Chippewa Lake Park. As a record of modern ruins, the film is pretty great, although as a horror film it has some flaws.
Kristy (Aimee Brooks) finds herself suddenly trapped on the grounds of Chippewa Lake Park. Immediately, she runs into weird creatures and threatening clowns, which disappear as quickly as they appear. She finds a house on the grounds where James (Damian Maffei), son of the park’s former caretakers, still lives. The two attempt to leave but soon find that it’s not as simple as it seems: Kristy sees James killed multiple times, only to have him reappear moments later. Whatever force in the park is holding them is able to bend the rules of time and space (and film continuity) with ease, making for a seriously disorienting trip around the old park.
A familiar face and voice arises out of the confusion: The Carny (Joe Unger), a sort of incarnation of the spirit of the park. The Carny leads Kristy and James through the park and offers cryptic monologues and vague advice, and in his clown outfit certainly seems like a dangerous figure. Like everything else in the park, The Carny is not exactly what he seems, and the trapped couple must figure out what they must do to leave the park, or remain trapped forever.
Closed for the Season is interesting and definitely unique, and at first the idea that there are no clear rules of time, space (and, again, continuity) in the haunted park is exciting. It becomes a bit less exciting, though, when extended to nearly a full two hours. At 111 minutes, the film’s elastic reality becomes tired and a bit irritating. It pretty much goes without saying that the mysteries of the park, once unraveled, are something of a letdown after the epic trip to get there. Still, there are plenty of gruesome and creepy sights, and seeing the inside of Chippewa Lake Park is a treat. Despite its flaws, Closed for the Season offers something unique for the hardcore horror fan scouring the low-budget wastelands, and is definitely worth a look.
MTI Home Video releases Closed for the Season on DVD 23 August 2011. Special features include a commentary track, two featurettes about Chippewa Lake Park, webisodes, deleted scenes, and trailers.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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