April Fool's Day (UK video cover).jpg
2 and a half stars

"Guess who's going to be the life of the party?"

directed by: Fred Walton
starring: Deborah Foreman, Amy Steel, Clayton Rohner, Deborah Goodrich, Thomas F. Wilson, Griffen O'Neal.

(back of video blurb):

       When Muffy St.John invited her college friends up to her parents' secluded island home for the time of their lives, she forgot to tell them that it might be last time of their lives.

       Because as soon as the kids arrive on the island, someone starts trimming the guest list. And what starts out as a weekend of harmless APRIL FOOL's DAY pranks turns into a bloody battle for survival.

       It's just what you'd expect from the team that bought you Friday the 13th- Parts 2,3,4,5 and 6!"

choice dialogue:

"Three people are dead and you are telling me to RELAX!"

slash with panache?

       "You can call APRIL FOOL'S DAY an Agatha Christie whodunit type suspense film", said Fred Walton at the time of it's release. But presumably the 'S' word was banned- even though this is an early attempt to wring new life out of the old formula and the back of the video proudly boasts "from the team that bought you FRIDAY 13TH- parts 2,3,4,5 and 6"!- (namely series producer Frank Mancuso.) Film makers have always been loathed to admitting to making a 'slasher' movie- even when they are parodying the sub-genres clichés. And yes, here the clichés flow thick and fast...

       The film opens with a group of young (although a few of them must be pushing 30 at least), college students- a rag-tag ensemble who would probably be more at home in THE BREAKFAST CLUB; the brainy girl, the jock, the 'wacky' attention seeker, the hick etc. One of whom is, the ver watchable, Amy Steel,( who you just know will end up being 'the final girl' due to her experience battling Jason in the climax of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981).) The reason for the gathering is because they have all been invited to spend the weekend with their friend Muffy (she must have had hell at school with a name like that!), at her isolated home on a remote Maine island. The only way to reach the island is by boat and during their trip, we get to know them through a serious of pranking and horse the game that goes 'tragically' wrong...play. A game involving a knife appears to go tragically wrong as one of the group collapses- only to reveal it was an elaborate hoax. Much to their merriment, but this joke inadvertently causes an accident where it appears that one of the crew members has half his face ripped away and is rushed to the main land by the captain. Leaving the now subdued teens on the shoreside ,Muffy greets them and takes them up to the house. And it turns out that Muffy is even more of a prankster than any of the others; cigars explode, chairs collapse and the dining table has personalised place mats with accompanying doll for each of the group- a TEN LITTLE INDIANS touch there. But as the group relaxes into their surroundings some of the pranks seem to take on a more personal and somewhat more sinister aspect; a tape of a baby crying, newspaper clippings of a fatal road accident, a syringe of heroin are among the things each character finds hidden in a draw or behind a closet in his or her rooms. These items seem to hint at some personal hidden secret and slowly the joke just doesn't seem funny anymore. One by one the friends start to disappear and by the time body parts start to turn up the jokes take on a whole new, macabre flavour...

       I can't really say too much else about APRIL FOOL'S DAY without giving away it's key aspect- it is enough to say that the film faceless teenplays, quite often successfully, on the situations and actions which may or may not turn out to be jokes. Although it probably relies on this device just a few too many times. What is especially interesting about APRIL FOOL'S DAY is the way the film makers have attempted to update the teen slasher sub-genre- by gently parodying it. It certainly is not a (dreaded) 'horror spoof', but like SCREAM (1996) it uses the very clichés of the sub-genre to attempt a fresh approach. It differs to SCREAM in as much that the teens don't seem aware of the clichés that surround them (the cast plays it fairly straight), but at the end of the film you realise that the clichés were integral to making the ending work. And also, by making the character's that much older and modelling them on THE BREAKFAST CLUB type teen flick, it shows that the makers were well aware that many of the people who flocked to see the early 80's slashers had grown up and they needed to appeal to them in a different way. In fact APRIL FOOL'S DAY often comes across as the beginnings of nostalgia for those earlier slashers! There is also little of the sleaze and ultra violence that characterised many of the earlier films, Fred Walton said (after mentioning his earlier WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979) being "depressing") that:bodies pop up everywhere once the macabre pranking really sets in! "APRIL FOOL'S DAY, on the other hand, doesn't put audiences through that kind of experience. It says come in, get scared and laugh....APRIL FOOL'S DAY is more of an entertainment". And actually the film is very much in keeping with the tone of many of the late 80's horror pics- where the horror was 'comfy' and the audience was let off the hook by not being challenged by what was on the screen and the look was polished (APRIL FOOL'S DAY had a comparatively large $5 million budget). It is 'Horror-lite' as exemplified by movies like the big budget remake of THE BLOB which harked back to a nostalgic age spiced up with bubblegum gore. That is not to say that APRIL FOOL'S DAY is a bad movie- it is not, in fact it is a lot of fun on the first viewing. But is there isn't enough there to warrant repeated viewings once the all the tricks are revealed.

       All in all a fairly enjoyable romp where nothing is what it seems-(and without wishing to appear overly cryptic...) not least of all the bodycount below. You'll understand when you see the thing!

BODYCOUNT 8  bodycount!   female:4 / male:4

       1) Male teen vanishes- body seen under boathouse
       2) Male teen decapitated (off screen)- head seen later
       3) Female teen has throat cut (off screen)- body seen later
       4) Male teen castrated (off screen)
       5) Female teen stabbed to death (?) (off screen)
       6) Male hung (off screen)- body discovered
       7) Female teen decapitated (off screen)- head pops up later
       8) Female teen has throat slit (on screen!)