top of page
  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

5 of The Best Amusement Park Horror Films

Updated: Jan 16

There is a natural hit when it comes to horror and amusement parks. Some filmmakers focus on the strange dystopian visuals of abandoned parks, while others play on the juxtaposition of what is meant to be a fun experience, with a terrifying reality. 

Amusement parks generally lend themselves to horror well, especially in the United States but even across the globe, theme parks have a shelf life. Without ongoing investment and upkeep, it’s very typical for parks to fall into disrepair. The average American is almost as comfortable with the imagery of a decaying, abandoned theme park as we are with a brand new one. 

Not to mention the history of accidents, hauntings and urban legends that plague these parks. Listen to Episode 131 of the Lunatics Radio Hour Podcast for more. 

A girl stands in a funhouse

Us (2019) Jordan Peele’s second film Us features a beach-side carnival as it’s entrypoint into a horrifying world below the surface. While the carnival or amusement park theme is not extensive, it is central to the plot. Peele uses the boardwalk attraction as a gateway to a bizarro mirror world. Coney Island is such an important theme park location in history, that it also seems fitting that Peele was called to set his next to the ocean. Us stars Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke. 

Two girls ride an amusement park ride

Zombieland (2009) At the time of its release, Zombieland felt like an iconic genre pushing film. Starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin, Zombieland tells the story of a group of people trying to survive in a Zombie infested world. There are rumors of a totally zombie free safe haven, an amusement park, that the group travels towards. 

A woman looks confused at a carnival

Carnival of Souls (1962) In 1962 Carnival of Souls was released to audiences. It was not an immediate hit, but became a cult classic. The film stars Candace Hilligoss as Mary Henry. As the film starts, we see Mary’s car crash off of a bridge and into a body of water below. Miraculously she walks from the car hours later, after the police and rescue personnel all assumed her to be dead. After her accident, Mary seeks a new life in a new town, but soon finds herself haunted by a terrifying and ghoulish man. There is no other way to describe him, he is squarely ghoulish. The film culminates in an abandoned amusement park, which I absolutely love. It’s a bizarre and brilliant look at death, souls and the world around us.

Two people ride a roller coaster and scream

Final Destination 3 (2006) The third Final Destination film brings us to a theme park. Directed by James Wong, and starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Final Destination 3 tells the story of a student who has a vivid premonition of a roller coaster accident killing her and her friends. 

A woman leaves her trailer

Freaks (1932) Admittedly, Freaks is a bit more sideshow and less amusement park, but the lines are thin. I wanted to include this film because historically it’s quite important. And it represents an important era of amusement. This pre-code film was directed by Tod Browning, and tells the story of sideshow circus performers who plot to seduce and kill another performer to gain his inheritance. It was originally intended to star Lon Chaney, but instead stars Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams and Olga Baclanova. Some people interpret Freaks as a story of the everyday person fighting against the major powers, especially through the lens of the Great Depression. Overall, scholars agree that Freaks portrays folks with disabilities in a positive and empowering light, something that was rare for the time period. 

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

James Herington
James Herington
Jan 09

I would also like to add Scream Park from 2012

bottom of page