"Action Park is looked back at fondly as an insane—but insanely fun—rite of passage. The scars it left? Badges of honor," the filmmakers say of the defunct New Jersey attraction
For those who grew up in or around northern New Jersey in the ’80s and ’90s, Action Park, a waterslide park in the town of Vernon, was infamous for both thrills and absolute chaos.
A new documentary promises to reveal how the attraction, often dubbed “the world’s most dangerous amusement park” came to be, the sordid means by which it stayed open for 18 years, and the memories of those who experienced it firsthand.
According to visitors featured in a new trailer for the film, which doesn’t yet have a release date, absent safety standards, fake insurance, an abundance of alcohol and under-trained teenage employees were to blame for its grisly reputation.
Countless injuries and six fatalities have been linked to the park over nearly two decades.
Still, in the clip above, many who made it out of the park with only some road rash or missing teeth (a frequent occurrence according to the doc) speak about their experience with nostalgia for the lawlessness of the park, which closed for good in 1996.
“If you lived through Action Park, you lived through an event in your life that changed how you felt about fun,” recalls one interviewee. “If you’ve never heard of Action Park, it’s an impossible myth your friends are making up and exaggerating. But it was true.”
“The very reason people were attracted to Action Park was because they could get hurt. That was the allure of it,” says another.
The description that accompanies the trailer on YouTube reads in part, “Action Park is looked back at fondly as an insane—but insanely fun—rite of passage. The scars it left? Badges of honor.”
The location is now a new waterpark called Mountain Creek.
The film, which will be called Class Action Park (a nod to its many lawsuits), will be the first feature-length documentary to shed light on the legendary site.
Created by filmmakers Chris Charles Scott and Seth Porges, it will feature unearthed clips and recordings, newly-discovered documents, original animations and interviews with those who visited the park — like Jimmy Kimmel.
In an interview with Johnny Knoxville (another Action Park alum), the Jimmy Kimmel Live! host recalls visiting as a child, and seeing the “water slide that held one person person that went in a flip” — a 360-degree creation called the Cannonball Loop, which was perhaps the most dangerous ride at the park.
According to the trailer, the slide “looked like a bunch of kids built it because that’s what it was.” Perhaps most disturbingly, because of the flawed design, several early riders lost teeth when they smacked into the top of the loop — teeth that would later be pulled from the padding there.
“Every member of my family was injured in that park at one time or another,” says Kimmel.
Comedian Chris Gethard also takes a walk down memory lane in the trailer, remembering his time at Action Park as a kid, saying, “Growing up, we would try to die for fun. Everybody almost died there.”
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Recounts another interview subject, “It starts out with people having fun. By the end of this, crimes have been committed, cover-ups have happened. The story hasn’t been told truthfully.”
While there is currently no slated release date for the documentary — which will make the rounds in the festival circuit — a website has been created to keep curious (and nostalgic) minds up to date. “Welcome to Action Park: A place the likes of which, we will almost certainly never see again,” the site reads.