Thursday, April 2, 2020

APRIL FOOL'S DAY (1986) Blu-ray Review

April Fool’s Day (1986) d. Fred Walton (89 min)

When Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman) 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. What starts out as a weekend of harmless “April Fool’s Day” pranks turns into a bloody battle for survival.

Once upon a time, April Fool’s Day was on my “most hated horror flicks” list, right alongside Van Helsing, Exorcist: The Beginning, and Halloween: Resurrection. As produced by Frank Mancuso, the man behind Body Parts, the Species franchise, and Friday the 13th II-VII (as well as executive producing the F13 TV series), I found it perfectly appalling that fright fans had to endure the predictably goofy hijinks of a group of co-eds off on a remote island as they were picked off one by one, only to discover in the end….

Well, let’s see what Young Dr. AC had to say back in 2005:

“In attempting to honor its plot twists, it is impossible to properly roast this turkey. Which demonstrates far more respect toward this wretched exercise than it shows its audience. Suffice to say that seven years after his chilling When a Stranger Calls, Fred Walton’s return to the genre generates little but teeth-clenching annoyance. By this stage in horror films, the slasher formula had grown tired, leaving the picking ripe for writer Danilo Bach to attempt a new spin. Unfortunately, Bach and Walton’s solution, with its multitude of unfunny practical jokes and stupefyingly obnoxious teenage characters, only mocks the convention without offering alternatives.

Are you... talking about us?

"Strangely, it is the horror fan, the film’s apparent target demographic, who suffers the most. Accepting the burdens that come with being a low-budget aficionado, he/she endures the lame script, shoddy gore effects, and dreadful acting with the optimistic hope that a decent story and/or memorable villain will emerge. The movie’s “mystery party weekend” setting, is a big cheat, with no scares, no suspense, no gore, no nudity, no nothing. And when the big “surprise” ending comes, it laughs right in the audience’s face, rendering their substantial efforts to forgive the film’s shortcomings completely unjustified. “April Foooooool’s!” We are not amused. Wes Craven would offer a much more satisfying comment on the genre with 1996’s Scream, which managed to parody slasher conventions without insulting its fans."

Dang. Right? Somebody had some thoughts.

However, a lot of blood has gone under the bridge since then, my tolerance level has gone way up, and the upshot is that the film is no longer quite as offensive to my critical sensibilities. In fact, Walton and Bach’s driving the stake into the slasher genre’s barely beating heart now feels almost charming in its holding the mirror up to horror fans and saying, “Come on, everybody, we’re not still going for this, are we?” Of course, most of us WERE still going for it, which is why AFD felt so brazen in its mocking of the subgenre and its followers. But with time and wisdom on our side, it’s easier to look back and say, “Yeah, maybe you have a point there, guys.”

The characters, which I found “stupefyingly obnoxious” at the time, are actually a halfway decent bunch (especially when compared to many of their cinematic brethren) and assayed by a cadre of solid young adult performers. In addition to Foreman (Valley Girl, Waxwork), we have Amy Steel (Friday the 13th Part 2), Clayton Rohner (I, Madman), Ken Olandt (Leprechaun), Jay Baker, Deborah Goodrich, Leah Pinset, Griffin O’Neal, and Thomas F. Wilson (Biff from the Back to the Future movies!)

What are you looking at, butthead?

The “shoddy”makeup effects by Reel EFX are actually not too bad, although I still take issue with the various fake heads which look supremely fake. I mean, come ON. Ain’t nobody on screen or in the theater who thought those were actual decapitated noggins, Fred, so maybe don’t given them so much screen time? Charles Bernstein’s musical score is neither as iconic as his A Nightmare on Elm Street, nor as overblown as The Entity, nor as by-the-numbers as Cujo. In fact, it’s just kind of there.

And that kind of sums up my current feelings about the film overall. It’s undeniably a cash-grab product, looking to squeeze a couple more bucks out of the faithful, but it’s a reasonably well-executed cash-grab, one that – viewed with expectations properly managed and historical context in place – manages to sorta kinda entertain. I don’t think it will ever be my favorite movie, and I can’t really consider it must-see material, but I understand that it has its fans and, unlike the AC of 15 years ago, I promise not to judge them too harshly.


NEW “Horror With A Twist” with director Fred Walton (47 min, in two parts)

NEW “Well Of Lies” with actress Deborah Goodrich Royce (17 min)

NEW “Looking Forward To Dessert” with actor Clayton Rohner (17 min)

NEW “Bloody Unforgettable” with composer Charles Bernstein (26 min)

NEW “The Eye Of Deception” with cinematographer Charles Minsky (17 min)

Theatrical Trailer

Original TV Spots

April Fool’s Day is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


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