Monday, January 19, 2015

#1,617. April Fool's Day (1986)

Directed By: Fred Walton

Starring: Deborah Foreman, Griffin O'Neal, Clayton Rohner

Tag line: "Childish pranks turn into a bloody battle for survival!"

Trivia: The film's French title was Weekend of Terror, while in Germany release was titled The Horror Party

April Fool’s Day, a 1986 horror / comedy directed by Fred Walton (the man behind 1979’s excellent When a Stranger Calls), is one of the more unique slasher films to emerge from the ‘80s. True, it plays fast and loose with some of the subgenre’s conventions, but it's still a fun watch.

Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman), a college student from a well-off family, invites some of her classmates to spend the weekend at her island mansion. 

After witnessing a near-fatal accident that badly injures a ferry deckhand (Mike Nomad), Muffy’s friends, including Harvey (Jay Baker), Nikki (Deborah Goodrich), Rob (Ken Olandt), Nan (Leah King Pinsent), Kit (Amy Steel), and Arch (Thomas F. Wilson) arrive at the island, only to discover that their host has planned a few practical jokes to help celebrate April Fool’s Day. 

The frivolity quickly comes to an end, however, when Muffy’s cousin Skip (Griffin O’Neal) goes missing. It isn’t long before some of the others disappear as well, leaving behind clues that suggest they may have been murdered. Hoping to survive this terrifying ordeal, the remaining friends band together to find a way off the island, all the while trying to figure out the identity of the potential killer. 

But are things truly as they seem?

Based on the opening few minutes of April Fool’s Day, you’d think you’re in for a standard ‘80s slasher flick; following a flashback sequence in which Muffy recalls a traumatic childhood birthday party, we join the others on the dock as they’re waiting for the ferry, during which they act like typical movie teens, talking about sex and generally having a good time. Once the gang arrives at the mansion, however, the film veers off in a more comedic direction, hitting us with a series of well-planned practical jokes that Muffy arranged beforehand. Some of her pranks are basic (whoopee cushions and dribble glasses), while others are more advanced (in the room Rob and Kit share, Muffy has rigged the lights so that, whenever one is turned off, another switches on). 

In addition to its humorous start, April Fool’s Day acks the gore found in such genre classics as The Burning, The Prowler, and My Bloody Valentine. Most of the kills in this movie occur off-screen, with little or no blood left behind. 

Yet, despite its breaks from the norm, April Fool’s Day presents us with a mystery that is, at times, quite intense (a scene featuring an outdoor well is sure to get your pulse pounding), and while many viewers will undoubtedly feel cheated once the film ends, I give Walton and writer Danillo Bach points for trying something new.

Those in the mood for an ‘80s slasher might be annoyed by April Fool’s Day, but I had a great time watching it.  Give it a chance and you may feel the same.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

One of my very favorites, Doc! I can understand people feeling cheated, but to me, the twist is what made it stand out from an overabundance of derivative horror movies.