Documentary’s deep dive into Action Park’s dark past
Just as there’s never been an amusement park like Action Park before, there’s never been such an in-depth documentary that sorts through its history. Action Park opened Memorial Day weekend of 1978 and inexplicably took until 1996 to close down for good. It came back in name only, for awhile, and not with the same tooth-splintering flesh-tearing splendor.
Yes, splendor. That’s how people regarded this playground from Hell. The more dangerous it was the more popular it seemed to be.
Chris Charles Scott and Seth Porges set out to make a documentary that promises to be the most brutally honest look yet at the reckless mayhem and allure of such a dangerous place. Of the many nicknames given this place in the 1980’s such as Accident Park and Traction Park, it was Class Action Park they settled on as a title for their film.
As you’ll see from the trailer below, it’s almost as if insanity were rationalized here. Almost as though if you left without shedding blood you didn’t get your money’s worth. Was this a Fight Club in amusement park form?
In 1982 during the park’s heyday, two people died within one week of each other leading a ride to be shut down. People still came in huge numbers. The injuries were always there, but 1984 brought two more deaths. Injury lawsuits piled up. Indictments against the park came. CEO and evil genius Eugene Mulvihill pleaded guilty to insurance fraud-related charges.
It didn’t matter. Crowds still came. 1 million per year. 12,000 on some of their busy weekend days. According to Weird NJ, a nearby hospital treated up to ten accident victims a day on their busy days. It’s said Action Park paid for extra ambulances for the township of Vernon just to keep pace.
For awhile they had a giant single person tube water slide with a built in 360 degree loop. According to Gothamist, the first people who tried it came out with bruises. The next few came out with lacerations. When workers looked inside the loop they found broken off teeth embedded in the lining.
Eventually the injuries and deaths and lawsuits and economic times caught up with them and the park closed in 1996. Years later it would come back in name only, briefly, and not with the same bone-crushing reputation.
It all makes you wonder could this place have existed anywhere else? Or was Jersey with its long-suffering ego the only state in which it could have taken off? Maybe us Jersey folk had a chip on our shoulders and a toughness to prove.
The film is a feature length documentary. The promotional website describes Action Park as “somewhere between Lord of the Flies and a Saw movie.” The trailer was just released this week. Class Action Park is said to be coming soon but I can’t find a solid release date yet. It’s expected to make the festival circuit. If a theater offers broken, splintered chairs and all fire exits blocked, they just might pack the joint with fans.
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