Friday, September 29, 2023

Crazy Fun Park, on Hulu

Right, what could possibly go wrong in an abandoned amusement park? Frankly, the neighboring Australian town has been downright negligent by not razing this deathtrap. Every year, more curious kids are fatally lured to the park—and it is easy to see why. Unfortunately, Chester Dante’s lifelong best friend Mapplethorpe Landis will be the latest casualty. However, Dante’s grief is alleviated when he learns Landis’s spirit is still there. They all are. It turns out the ghost-park is indeed haunted in creator-writer Nicholas Verso’s ten-part Crazy Fun Park, which premieres Sunday on Hulu.

It sure sounds like these two friends were named after 1980’s horror filmmakers, Joe Dante and John Landis, doesn’t it? (The second episode is titled “One of Us,” so there’s a
Freaks reference too). Regardless, Mapplethorpe Landis is as annoying as his unlikely name. For years, they have worked on their epic zombie comic, but from what we can tell, Dante the artist is the one with the talent, whereas Landis the writer just keeps making up outlandish stuff, off the top of his head. Lately, Dante is starting to wonder if maybe he should start to grow up. In a further healthy development, he is also beginning to show an in girls, especially since Violletta Nakata moved to town.

Initially, all three explored Crazy Fun Park together, but later Landis returned on his own. It was the first night the lads ever had a row—and it is his last to draw living breath. Of course, Dante is wracked with guilt, but when he returns to the scene of the accident, the ghostly Landis has some reassuring news for him. The problem is Remus, the sinister leader of the spectral gang, is a stickler for enforcing the “rules” government ghostly interactions with humans (unless they are not in his interests). Dante will literally play his games and abide by his rules. As his grades nosedive, everyone starts worrying about Dante, particularly his parents and Nakata. Meanwhile, Remus manipulates Dante and Landis to serve his own schemes.

Most of the ghosts are “nice” in
Crazy Fun Park, but it is still more horror than comedies like Topper and the like, albeit in a R.L. Stine-writing-for-his-younger-readers kind of way. Justin Holborow definitely has the right Kiefer-Sutherland-in-Lost-Boys-thing going on as Remus, which helps a lot.

In fact, the supporting cast is terrific, starting with Hannah Ogawa as Nakata, who solidly grounds the film and provides a smart perspective for viewers to identify with. Judith Lucy is laugh-out-loud funny as Ms. Wiest, the kids’ witheringly sarcastic but secretly conscientious teacher. The parents are also refreshingly sympathetic and engaged in their kids’ lives (including Bernard Curry as Dante’s dad and Kuni Hashimoto as Nakata’s dad)—just give them some slack for dealing with unusual parenting challenges.

Awkwardly, the co-leads are the weakest links, especially Stacy Clausen, whom Verso (who also directed nine episodes) should have reined in more. Fortunately, the design of the amusement park looks fantastic. The atmosphere is highly effective and Verso springs several satisfying genre-appropriate twists. Kids raised on R.L. Stine should be delighted and somewhat older horror fans might find it surprisingly grabby. Recommended for pre- and post-trick-or-treating,
Crazy Fun Park starts streaming Sunday (10/1) on Hulu.