April Fool's Day (1986)

Author: Josh G.
Submitted by: Josh G.   Date : 2008-03-01 03:00

Directed by: Fred Walton
Written by: Danilo Bach
Starring: Amy Steel, Deborah Foreman and Ken Olandt

Reviewed by: Josh G.

Every once in a while, there comes along a film that slightly alters the repetition in horror movies. They add another dimension to the formula that has already been set out for them. The people behind these movies seem to have good intentions. Often, their product is praised for standing out amongst the rest. Many times, the result is trashed and bullied. Some fans enjoy fresh ideas that jolt life back into a weekly experience. Others don’t like change, and wonder why on Earth some idiot screwed with a perfectly good blueprint? April Fool’s Day, for the most part, is just like any other loveable whodunit out there, that is, until the shocking twist is revealed at the climax. The line between love and hate for this picture is divided nearly in equal halves, some supporting the change while others stating that the film was completely ruined. I’m going to get to the bottom of all of this controversy, and see just what all the fuss is about.

A group of nine young adults are invited over to their friend, Muffy St. John’s island mansion for the weekend. All of them are graduating college; some have just recently met Muffy (Deborah Foreman), while others have known her for quite some time. Kit (Amy Steel) and Rob (Ken Olandt) are a couple; easygoing and ready to make friends. Arch (Thomas F. Wilson) and Muffy’s cousin Skip (Griffin O’Neal) are two pranksters just looking to have an all-out blast of a time! Nikki (Deborah Goodrich) and Chaz (Clayton Rohner) are horny for a little S&M, and Harvey (Jay Baker) is a major rich boy, on the lookout for Muffy’s love. Nan (Leah Pinsent) is a sweet, wholesome, independent shy gal, and Buck (Mike Nomad) is just tagging along in the back. It’s April 1st, and these sociable partygoers are hoping for a vacation they’ll never forget.

But things turn horrifying even before they step off of the ferryboat. After a harmless practical joke, Buck finds himself overboard in the water, staying afloat. To everyone’s surprise, Buck is smashed with the ferryboat, tearing half of his face right off! He is quickly rushed off to seek medical help, leaving only eight friends headed towards the mystery island. Shook up, Constable Sam Potter (Tom Heaton) tells everybody who has set foot on the island to stay put, and that Buck will receive the best care possible. Attempting to move on, except for Skip who feels responsible for the accident, the guests meet longtime friend Muffy, and the entourage settles down. Getting reacquainted and building relationships with new friendly personalities, it seems as if the worst is behind them, and the party will continue.

Muffy has rigged the entire place with silly April Fools jokes, in bedrooms, at the dinner table, and even in the bathroom. At first, everyone has a good laugh. But the jokes start to get personal, as Nan finds a tape recorded baby’s cry, reminding her of an abortion she had. Then, things start to get even stranger. Muffy’s acting like another person altogether, and Skip has completely disappeared. Are these still just jokes? Or is something very serious rearing its ugly head on St. John’s island? Bodies are turning up, disturbing clues are being discovered, and there is no way to escape, what with the ferry not returning until Monday. The guests are dwindling in numbers, and if somebody doesn’t figure out who is behind the sick and twisted body count affair, there will be no more pranking...ever!

April Fool’s Day looks like it had some help in the budget department. It looks clean, it’s well written, and it’s carefully constructed. There are times where you yell at the characters to stop being so stupid, like when the constable is on the phone, and no one tells him to contact the police. Dead bodies are in the well, and no one is having a mental breakdown. At least, not a large one. These people should be going berserk! One guy attempts to get kinky with his female companion, and one wonders what must be going through his head? A killer on the loose! Go hunting, grab a pitchfork, and mutilate the lunatic! While the acting is good, and the people are likeable, there’s no excuse for showing unrealistic emotions. Though, I’m blaming that on the writers.

You rarely see someone getting slashed in front of your eyes. It’s a cutaway, or a ‘surprise of their demise’ for later. Gore is still, slightly present. A woman’s throat is slit, heads bob in water, genitals are removed, and a lady gets a combination of a throat slice, followed by being dumped in a well. While not overdoing it, April Fool’s Day still manages to be gruesome, and full of limbs! There is great use of comedy as well. No, it’s not meant to be comical horror, but there are some scenes where you can laugh with yourself about. Handcuffs, chairs, and light bulbs. That doesn’t sound very funny when you put it that way, but it’s a few lighthearted moments that make the movie speed up quicker. The scenery is beautiful, but the score is tricky. It’s well done, but after just a few repeats, it can get rather irritating. It may be produced by Frank Mancuso, Jr, but it’s certainly no match for classic Friday the 13th music.

The ending. That infamous reveal at the finale, which I won’t give away, was actually, a lot of fun. If you hate its twists and turns, then don’t dismiss the first eighty minutes. It was fresh and a good old time with the 80s, and I think that looking for a perfect slasher in this bundle would be expecting a bit too much. ‘Scream Queen’ Amy Steel of Friday the 13th Part II fame makes another final girl appearance as Kit. While she doesn’t have the charisma that her character five years previous obtained, she’s working with all that she’s been given, and it’s still a damn good characterization. Paramount released this, probable Agatha Christie inspired film, on DVD with a wonderful transfer and 16:9 widescreen. Like many of their horror releases before, April Fool’s Day follows in a ‘no extras’ purchase. It’s a witty, rarely dull slasher that deserves to be watched by fans of the sub-genre. It’s very good. The problem is re-watching the gem, which never captures the excitement of the first run through. It may be one of the better ‘one-by-one’ features, but there’s no point in watching it more than once. Rent it!

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