Synopsis: When Muffy St. John invited her college friends up to her parents’ secluded island home for the time of their lives, she just forgot to tell them it just might be the last time of their lives.
As soon as the kids arrive on the island, someone starts trimming the guest list… one murder at a time. 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 producer who brought you “Body Parts, Species and Friday the 13th- Parts III-V.”
The advantage to being a long-time producer of a horror series like ‘Friday the 13th’ is that experience teaches you what works and what doesn’t. Frank Mancuso, jr. certainly knew what he was doing with ‘April Fool’s Day’: he brought the acclaimed director of ‘When a Stranger Calls’, a hot writer, and a young cast of up-and-comers together and planted the seeds of the next great horror franchise.
In using April Fools’ Day, an instantly recognizable day of mischief (not unlike a ridiculous, dressed down, cousin of All Hallow’s Eve) as its basis, the filmmakers were able to tap into the collective consciousness. It permitted them to immediately stir a sense of uncertainty, if not insecurity, in the viewing public’s mind – knowing full well that, on April 1st, anything could happen. And likely would!
In so doing, they set the correct expectations for a successful horror film – especially one that would actually refuse to play by conventional rules. This gave the filmmakers license to take their willing audiences to the most sinister places that the heart can find and shock them with some of the most unexpected scares that could be designed by their masterful team of special effects artists (with the help of an exceptional cinematographer, of course!).
‘April Fool’s Day’ is an extremely effective horror film, worming its way into the mind slowly and leaving traces of itself well after the credits roll. The writing is superb: Danilo Bach was able to find the right balance between character development, fleshing out our group of young protagonists just enough to make them relatable, and visceral moments that, with all the torn flesh and horrifying screams, make quite an impression.
But it wouldn’t have amounted to much if the material hadn’t been supported by such a fine cast. While all were very young and only getting started, much talent is plastered on the screen (albeit, some in smaller roles or cameos): Patricia Arquette (‘True Romance’, TV’s ‘Medium’), Kevin Bacon (‘Footloose’, ‘Apollo 13’), Jennifer Connelly (‘Labyrinth’, ‘A Beautiful Mind’), Johnny Depp (TV’s ’21 Jump Street’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ series), Corey Feldman (‘Stand By Me’, ‘The Lost Boys’ trilogy) and Thomas F. Wilson (‘Back to the Future’ trilogy, TV’s ‘Gargoyles’).
(to think that this was remade a few years ago… )
And now for my real thoughts about this film:
‘April Fool’s Day’ is a pretty poor film wrapped up in a great horror gimmick: that of a bunch of kids trapped on an island and being knocked off one by one on April Fools’ Day (note the actual spelling) – except that the film is a joke on its characters and, consequently, the audience.
This is what distinguishes it from all the other film of its ilk: the gimmick.
The problem is that, once we know the ending, the film loses much of its initial appeal – there’s no way to forget that it’s all a joke, which declaws the picture completely. Still, it does offer at least a second life for those who want to see how the filmmakers pulled it off without giving away their secret.
Watching it for the second time, after first seeing it some 25 years ago, I knew exactly what to expect. This time around, though, I decided to look out for the tricks, dissecting the skill with which they was rendered. I realized that, beyond the fact that the scares were uninspired bits that we’ve all seen before and could see coming a mile away, none of the “kills” were actually shown on screen – being only suggested or, worse, coming as a surprise.
For instance, I don’t actually remember Nan ever getting caught by our killer. However, the next thing that we know is that she is found floating in a well by Nikki and whatsisname. That was abrupt and anti-climactic, seeing as I didn’t even realize that she was in danger. Not that discovering her in the well was a shock, seeing as we couldn’t tell who it was whatsoever.
The direction and editing were choppy. Scenes often followed each other much like bumbling fools trying to squeeze their way through a doorway in a hurry and, instead of making it, tripping all over themselves; there was no attempt at allowing things to flow. And yet, 5 seconds of footage here and 10 seconds there would have helped immensely, making the film at least appear competent.
The acting was appalling. You could see what these kids, presumably almost all non-actors, were trying to convey, but they had the dial way up and were incapable of natural performances. Case-in-point: there was this one scene where a guy was sighing so exuberantly that I couldn’t help but snicker when I should have been empathizing with his hurt feelings.
Likewise, the set-ups and dialog were uncomfortably contrived. I just couldn’t see real people saying and doing the things they did here, whether it was playing gags on each other or even doing something as simple as playing sports outside; somehow it all came off as fake.
As for the dialog… here’s a standard example from this film:
Harvey Edison, Jr.: I know you think I’m a hick, but I’d like to change your mind about that if you’d give me a chance.
Nikki Brashares: Why?
Harvey Edison, Jr.: Because I would really like to plow your field.
Or how about this HILARIOUS one-liner:
Chaz Vyshinski: Hey guy, your fly is open and your Hostess Twinkie is hanging out.
If I somewhat liked the film, it’s mostly because of its basic premise. The rest is pretty crap. Still, for the genre and era (mid-’80s), it’s not the worse thing ever. It’s actually amusing enough – especially if one knows the punchline ahead of time and has fun analysing it.