April Fool's Day
From Paramount Pictures
Original Theatrical Release Date: March 27th 1986
Plot: Muffy invites her best college friends over to celebrate her just inherited mansion on a secluded island. There will be the usual catching up of old times and a little murder.
It’s still fitting for me that I am working on a post for yet another Slasher Film set on an island. Just like Humongous, April Fool’s Day is serving as a way to exorcise my Island Demons. Since this is 80’s Slasher Movie month, I should probably be aerobicizing them out, too.
You have to love Muffy. This girl really loves a good party. Imagine inviting all of your close college friends to your newly inherited spooky mansion on a secluded island for a weekend of thrills and chills. She gives them place settings at dinner complete with barbie and ken dolls. She assigns them rooms that are all fraught with memories of the past; with just a little hint of the macabre and murder. Some get sex gear, others crying babies, and some bloody newspaper headlines. And you can’t forget the occasional practical joke. This is April Fool’s Day after all.
I can now rest easy and know that I made it off that (mostly uninhabited) Island alive (though with all those impossibly itchy bug bites). Muffy’s friends aren’t all that lucky. But are they? Slasher fans know the resolution to April Fool’s Day the Movie all too well. Some really enjoy it, others feel it greatly lessens the impact of the Film. I’m of the camp that will defend it to the death.
Without entirely spoiling the Film, let me just say, why not have a Horror film that plays with the balance of Horror and Comedy? Horror, especially of the Slasher variety, isn’t mutually exclusive with his morose girlfriend or boyfriend doom and gloom. I think the best films tend to have spikes of different moods and emotions, rather than just the same pulse. Really it’s more about how you dish it out. I love the way April’s comedy comes from it’s characters. There’s a wink and a nod here and there (sometimes on screen literally) but that is the fun of a movie like this. By 1986, Slasher Films had already passed their peak, and Filmmakers and Studios were trying to move on and slowly take the Slasher Film to the next level (It would be 10 years in 1996 with the success of Scream before this happened on a mainstream level)
There is a fun mystery within April Fool’s Day and I almost wish the movie had gone on longer to explore it more. Apparently there is both a different filmed and scripted ending to the Picture which does elaborate it, as well as in a Novelization--I really need to hunt it down at some point. I think what ultimately makes the Film work is it’s characters and the actors who portray them. Whether some of these guys be loud mouthed jerks or headstrong women or complete loonies, I kind of would love to hang around with them in that gorgeous house! They are a diverse, wacky bunch for sure, but they do seem like they could have been College friends. Notably, Deborah Foreman does a great job in a dual role, and Amy Steel’s Kit is essentially an extension of her wondrous Ginny character from Friday The 13th Part II. Hey, I get to mention Friday The 13th Part II twice in the same day! I love October and Halloween. And I really love Slasher Movies with Amy Steel. Can’t forget to mention Paramount’s brilliant decision to cast two of the stars of Just One Of The Guys: Deborah Goodrich and Clayton Rohner. Both are pretty good here in very different roles.
One thing you don’t hear much about with regard to April Fool’s Day is the Film’s Cinematography. Even back in the day on a badly pan ‘n scan VHS (remember those?) I immediately took notice of the compositions in it’s photography and the lighting. Cinematographer Charles Minsky has gone on to bigger projects (He shoots every Garry Marshall Film) but he does a better than usual job good job here. I also really like the music by Charles Bernstein (A Nightmare On Elm Street, Deadly Friend). It’s a surprisingly good Score that I go back to from time to time. I also wish Director Fred Walton (When A Stranger Calls) was still making Films. Walton gave each of his Slasher Movies (he also Directed The Rosemary Murders and When A Stranger Calls Back) all something unique as they were a step above run of the mill and had their own quirks and charm.
April Fool’s Day is a Slasher that isn’t sure to please everyone. Die hard Slasher fans either get the joke, or are totally offended by it. I think if you go into it with a more lighthearted point of view, you may actually find something to really enjoy or love. Slasher Films of the 80’s still had an innocence about them. I know, innocence is a very strange word to use with regards to Movies that feature people getting hacked up, but, it’s more about the way these films were approached. When we look back to films of this era, they were still making Pictures to titillate, to thrill but to also make you smile. I’ve always thought that it was easy to shock someone with overdoses of blood and gore, but it’s much harder to get someone to walk away from a Movie that takes a different approach with a big grin. In 1986, I was ear to ear. April Fool’s Day is a joke tailored made for the big Movie lover in me.