April Fools Day – review
Director – Fred Walton
Year - 1986
Starring – Deborah Foreman, Amy Steel, Griffin O'Neal
PLOT - A group of nine college students staying at a friend's remote island mansion begin to fall victim to an unseen murderer over the April Fool's day weekend.
LOWDOWN – There are certain VHS covers I clearly remember gazing at in complete wonder growing up. Covers that caused me to go running straight to the horror section whenever my mother brought me as a child to the old fashion mom & pop video stores that were in full boom in the late 1980's and early 90's. I still remember gazing at all these tapes with their colorful artwork in complete wonder. Certain movies like A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Fright Night II, Dead And Buried...and of course April Fools Day.
Who doesn't remember the iconic image of the slender girl in the pink dress, holding a knife behind her back with her long brown hair braided into a hang man's noose while all her unaware friends are sitting down laughing and toasting.
I can't clearly remember when I first watched April Fool's Day, but I do remember buying the VHS in a bargain bin when a local video store was going out of business. In fact I do remember I was able to score a very sweet Stepfather II VHS as well that certain day. Still, April Fools Day is a highly underrated film that I honestly feel still doesn't get the credit it deserves even today.
Directed by Fred Walton, the man behind When A Stranger Calls and When A Stranger Calls Back. This movie was a very clever spin on the slasher craze that had invaded the 1980's. Released at the height of the slasher movie boom, it turned the stereotypical rules of these movies on it's head. In fact I look at this movie more as a clever 1980's Agatha Christie movie. In fact it's been debated for years that this movie ended up being a complete cop out with it's twist ending. I couldn't disagree anymore. In fact I agree with the documentary Going To Pieces: The Rise And Fall Of Slashers, where they say April Fools Day wasn't the death of the slasher era...that it's ending was actually very clever. In fact movies like Hide And Seek, and High Tension are the cop outs...not this movie.
With a very likeable cast with Deborah Foreman (From my favorite Waxwork), Amy Steel (Friday the 13th part II), Ken Olandt (Summer School), Thomas F. Wilson (Back To The Future), and Clayton Rohner (Just One Of The Guys) makes this slasher unlike so many that were being released at the time. In fact there's only a small handful of slasher movies with likeable characters and good casts. I couldn't help but laugh and feel as though your having a good time with these people. This is a group of people you can see yourself getting completely wasted and having a blast with. I always crack up whenever Chaz and Arch find out their rooming together and begin rolling around cracking up saying they wanna play “hide to sausage”. Fucking classic.
With the right elements for a great mystery, suspense, thriller...this movie really doesn't feel like a slasher movie at all. Gore is downplayed and most of the “deaths” are off screen which is for good reason due to the ending. With a wonderful island setting, along with the clues that begin getting pieced together, the tension and suspense that builds through this fast paced film is a great thrill ride. I loved all the little clues and evidence left in the rooms, the moving eyes behind the paintings, the newspaper clipping, ect. All great elements that pay tribute to classic mysteries. With a catchy little theme, and Amy Steel stealing the show as our favorite final girl (we miss you Amy, you were iconic in Friday the 13th part II!), you can't help when you first watch this movie be floored by the ending. Lucky enough for me when I first watched it, this was long before the internet took hold, so it wasn't spoiled for me. For those who know anyone who haven't seen this movie yet, I urge you to show it to them. This movie along with Sleepaway Camp are classics that I envy seeing people who get to watch the shocking and clever endings for the first time all over again. Being caught off guard by a well written ending is always a rewarding feeling that sadly doesn't happen that often anymore.
So without coming straight out and spoiling the ending, all I have to say is it's very clever and keeps up with the overall mood of the move which was a fun little thrill ride. For those who believe this killed the slasher era, their full of shit. What killed the slasher era was a changing of time and tons of low budget shit movies that were released.
April Fools Day is a movie that is beyond underrated, and is just beginning to gain the respect it deserves as becoming a cult classic. Now I haven't seen the direct to DVD remake, even though I've heard pretty shitty things, but hey who knows. I'm sure I'll end up catching it sometime soon. One thing I would love is to see a special edition of this film released with all the extra footage and extended ending we've all heard about.
So as I rock my awesome Fright Rags April Fools Day shirt, which is simply stunning...I want to thank this movie for holding a strong image in my memory for it's classic VHS cover, and the fact it was one of the better written slasher movies from the 1980's.