April Fools Day

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"don't anyone say 'April Fools' again or I'll rip them apart! "

Feb 28th, 2010

Back in the 80's it was hard to find a slasher flick that wasn't based on an obscure holiday. Beginning with Halloween and Friday the 13th things became rather dire with titles such as Bad Birthday, Mother's Day and the ever popular Domino Day (in honour of the annual Channel Five celebration). Thank God that last one's not true. In 1986 we were treated to April Fools Day and as its name suggests it was an absolute joke.

I've had a strange relationship with this movie over the years. When I was a kid I though this was great, everybody at my school had caught it one weekend and we though the twist ending was genius. From this we can deduce that kids are stupid. There are many films you rewatch when you're older and they remain just as great such as The Goonies, Karate Kid and Back To The Future. Then there are those like April Fools Day that are absolute shite.

A few years back I bought this and the original My Bloody Valentine on DVD hoping for a nostalgic trip back to old school horror. Both films were crap and have spent years at the back of my DVD shelf. Then in 2008 a remake of April Fools Day was released which was so bad it made the first look like a classic. My estimation of this film once again shot up, just not up to the level of my childhood memory.

A group of college friends are about to celebrate the beginning of Spring Break by spending the weekend with their good friend Muffy. Is that name serious? Are people really called that? They even make fun of it in the film with various nicknames (muff and stuff, the muffster and muff dive). Muffy has inherited a mansion on her own island which pretty much makes escape impossible if something went wrong.

The college kids are all stock characters from other slasher flicks and it even stars Thomas F. Wilson (Biff from the Back To The Future films) and Amy Steel (you may remember her as the main heroine from Friday the 13th part two).

The title of the film comes from the fact that it takes place on April 1st and all the college friends keep playing tricks on each other from the childish (whoopee cushions) to the more extreme (fake stabbing) but things begin to take a more sinister turn. On the way to the island mansion one of their friends is crushed under the boat and from this point on everything spirals out of control. Once there one by one each of the teenagers are stalked and killed. Who is killing everyone off? Is it Muffy or someone else on the island? Or like the aforementioned day is the joke on us?

Clearly the storyline sucks but this is what to expect from a standard slasher movie. Everything is an elaborate excuse to get the cast to a location where they can be picked off one by one in the most elaborate ways. There are a few things that help separate good slashers from the bad however.

First we have the characters, this is what needs to sell the film – if you don't like the characters than you wont care about the peril they are about to live through. As I said before most characters in this genre are cut and pasted from other films but every now and then we get a spark of ingenuity. I suppose April Fools Day did try something different in that none of the characters are particularly nice. All of them have baggage; jealousy, arrogance and arseholism (that's a new word to describe the dickheads in horror) plague the cast. The actors along with the poor script they are given actually pull out some interesting performances and Hell it's always good to see Biff in something.

Usually the juvenile pranks characters play on each other in movies actually make me feel more connected to them as I enjoy playing pranks on people. Here the jokes they play actually made me hate them as they went too far, pretending that you're dead by using graphic special effects is a lot different than jumping out on someone. As I didn't like this bunch only one thing could save the film. The killer.

The killer's appearance and personality can save a poor film. My Bloody Valentine is terrible but the killer looks cool in his gas mask and with his preferred weapon, the pick axe. I also think this is why Scream did as good as it did, the killer, "ghostface", as it's now known was so iconic that the image immediately springs to mind when that film is mentioned. So what did the killer here look like? I don't know exactly. Taking a leaf out of the first Friday the 13th the killer is never seen and every shot takes place via a point of view shot. While disappointing there was a reason for this which is revealed later. So with this in mind, what were the kills like?

Inventive kills are the reason we sit through trash like this and this film doesn't really shine in this department either. Before a kill takes place we get the above POV shot but the actual murders are never committed on screen. Was this film aiming for a PG rating? Well that's a big no as there is quite a lot of swearing and sexual language that are littered about. On top of this once a character is bumped off we get to see their mutilated bodies in their full glory which involves decapitated heads. By heads I mean both of them as one guy is actually found with his penis missing. Once again all this had purpose and the final reel reveals all but it's such a slog getting there.

The music is dull. I don't remember it which is a shame as most slashers usually put most of there effort into this and/or the kills. Is there anything original this film was able to do? Well yes and no – the ending is out of this world and highly predictable even if you haven't seen the film. From my above comments see if you can guess where this one was going. The next paragraph will include the ending of the film so SPOILERS BEGIN…

Be prepared, this is one of the most illogical endings to any film you will ever see. As with most slashers we are left with the last survivor who just happens to be Amy Steel. It's always amazing how the nicest characters make it to the end. Over the course of the film and her exploration of the mansion she discovers that the character of Muffy has an evil twin sister called Buffy (what mother would rhyme her twin daughter's names?). Anyway Buffy appears and chases the survivor (I can't be bothered to write her character's name as she's nothing more than the survivor) around the mansion until the survivor pulls open the doors to the living room. Pow, here's the knockout, all the characters who had been bumped off one by one are not actually dead, this was all an elaborate April Fools prank. What kind of evil shit is that?

This manages to explain all the secrecy throughout the movie but really is the most ridiculous thing on film, ever. Prepare yourself for stupidity as this wont make much sense. Buffy is Muffy, there is no evil twin but there is a twin – one of the other characters turn out to be her twin brother, a useless revelation on top of all this shite. Muffy wants to open the mansion as a murder mystery vacation and decided to test it out on her friends minus telling them what was going to happen. To make things worse when Muffy approached each of the "victims" they decided to join in on the "joke". To me if you are going to scare the shit out of me to this extent, friendship over and on top of that I would sue your arse. After all this everyone laughs, ha ha ha, no it's still not funny. SPOILERS END

So is this the greatest slasher film of all time, with the best kills, the most likeable characters and a brilliant twist ending? April Fools bitches, yeah that kind of crap swamped this and I'm less than impressed. As I said earlier the remake is worse so this review gives you an indication of what that's like. Just because there's something worse out there doesn't make this good. 3/10

Filmed in Canada most of the cast are Canadian, go figure
Inspired by the Agatha Christie novel 'And Then There Were None' (how'd they work that out?)
SPOILER: Body Count: Zero, even the guy who got crushed was part of the prank – pointless film!

Director: Fred Walton
Screenplay: Danilo Bach
Released: 1986
Rating: 15
Starring: Jay Baker, Deborah Foreman, Deborah Goodrich, Ken Olandt, Griffin O'Neal, Thomas F. Wilson

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