Whilst Blackpool has the Pleasure Beach, New Jersey once had the Nightmare Park. Class Action Park looks at the infamous Action Park which was owned by the eccentric former banker Gene Mulvihill.
After trading in his job on Wall Street, Mulvihill thought he could make some quick cash by opening a theme park. Sounds fairly cocky, right? Well, so large was this man’s ego, that when insurance companies refused to insure him, he created his own and insured himself.
And he then staffed the whole park with hormone headed, booze fuelled teenagers (who perfectly matched their clientele), and filled the place with rides he designed himself, which he constantly pushed to be more thrilling, more extreme, and more deadly. The park became a hedonists paradise, full of teenagers necking beers before flying down a death-trap disguised as a ride, eventually returning home to their fretting parents covered with injuries varying from burns and bruises to full body lacerations.
For these first forty minutes, it’s a bit like watching a mockumentary – the rides are so ridiculous, the characters so comical, that we couldn’t possibly be watching a true story. But then people start dying, and you realise this isn’t just a true story, but a true crime. And to make it even more baffling, those teenagers that worked at and visited Action Park come on screen grinning like Cheshire cats whilst recounting their adrenaline fuelled adventures, with one saying “The magic and the horror of Action Park is that you can go there expecting a great time, expecting fantastic memories, and you can leave with those exact things. Oh, or you can leave in a body bag. And you didn’t know which it was going to be.”
Maybe we’re old, but we’ll be sticking to the highs of a new Netflix show, thanks…
Carol Midgley in The Times says this show “played out like a sitcom,” and remarks “what is extraordinary was that Mulvihill got away with it, local authorities turning a blind eye because he created jobs.” And The New Yorker’s Rachel Syme criticises producers Chris Charles Scott and Seth Porges for not explaining more thoroughly how it was he got away with it. However in The New York Times, Jason Bailey praises them both for “deploying John Hodgman’s wry narration, giddily kitschy archival materials and interviews with park employees, celebrity patrons and journalists.”
First shown February 2021. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.