APRIL FOOL'S DAY
Director: Fred Walton
Year of release: 1986
Country of origin: USA/Canada
Running time: 85-89 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Taglines: "A cut above the rest", "Guess who's going to be the life of the party" and "Don't let the joke be on you".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: A bunch of college kids are invited to spend an April Fool's Day weekend staying in a mansion on a private island owned by the father of their wealthy friend Muffy. On the ferry crossing over to the island two of the group play a prank on the others which results in a deckhand of the vessel ending up in the water. While adrift he ends up sustaining a serious facial injury after being crushed between the docking platform and the boat. The captain rushes him to hospital back on the mainland leaving the kids to meet up with Muffy on the island. After some light hearted April Fool's Day jokes later that night things take a more sinister turn as one of the group goes missing during the night. The following morning the group divide to search for their missing friend. In doing so the kids are whittled down as they begin to fall victim to a mysterious attacker. As events progress we are left guessing whether the injured deckhand has returned from the mainland seeking vengeance or if the attacker is someone perhaps linked to Muffy who is acting more and more strangely as times goes on.
Good Points: There are several creepy little touches that work well and add to the unsettling atmosphere. Examples include the portrait with the eyes cut out, the dolls posed in the attic and the two scenes that bookend the film involving a jack in the box.
The ending is quite clever and not something I expected or could have seen coming. Assuming your watching for the first time and haven't read any spoilers then it should come as quite a shock. It also helps explain or justify somethings you may have felt strongly about leading up to that point. It is very much a double edged sword though as although it is very clever and goes someway to tying up some loose ends it is going to divide opinion and won't be to everyone's tastes. If anything I'm probably leaning more towards the side of not liking it as although I could appreciate the cleverness of it, it can leave you feeling a bit cheated. I decided to add it as a positive though just for the fact that it did prove to be a shock so anytime that can be done in a slasher film I guess it should be celebrated. I think I mentioned a similar twist as a negative in a review I did for another more modern slasher but I'll justify that by saying they got the idea from this so as such just copied whereas this really thought outside the box at the time.
The acting is quite good from most with the actress playing Muffy in particular doing a good job and it also has Amy Steel of Friday the 13th part 2 fame as the final girl who is also very solid. Both her character Kit and that of her boyfriend Rob come across as very likeable.
Although we didn't really see much of it I liked the setting of the island. It looked nice visually from the little we saw and worked well as a place that served to isolate the characters and put them out of the reach of outside help. The mansion itself was even better and was perhaps even the star of the show in terms of how it added to the creepy atmosphere.
Bad Points: The kills are all very poor and disappointing with everything happening off camera. Although this is justified by something that happens later it still takes a lot of the fun out of things and is to the films detriment in my opinion. They certainly didn't spend much of the budget on special effects relating to gore.
For me this one felt a bit boring at times and I didn't feel as entertained or get the same sense of enjoyment I do with many other slashers. It just felt a bit dull to me and more like an old Agatha Christie mystery or something instead of a slasher. I have read that it wasn't originally intended to be a slasher anyway and instead more of a thriller/drama. Though I normally like dramas this didn't satisfy me much in that regard either.
There are a few little things that don't add up or make complete sense which don't help with the viewing experience. The accident at the start with the deckhand for example was really his own fault. He was even offered a line so he could be pulled back onboard by the kids which he rejected and then he wasn't paying attention when the boat hit him so it wasn't very plausible that the kids could be blamed. The ending explains it yes but we were being led to believe something else regarding the deckhand for most of the film which the way the accident was done didn't really support. Another thing I didn't like was that for the first kill (Skip I think) it isn't at all clear what the man is doing. He appears to be cutting off a bit of a plant in the dark and then roots around in a boathouse thing in the middle of the night with no explanation as to why. Even the ending doesn't shed any light on what he was supposed to be doing. Something else that bothered me was the things left in the kids rooms at night that presumably related to a dark secret from their past like the newspaper clippings about a car accident for Harvey, the tape recording of the baby for Nan and the bondage gear for Nikki etc. I understand that it was done to imply that these kids had done something wrong like causing a car crash, having an abortion or being into kinky sex (they were really reaching with that one) and then were going to be killed off as punishment but the ending doesn't really explain why these things were left. I think they are referred to as clues at one point but clues to what? They certainly don't hint at the ending of the film for the viewer and they wouldn't have helped the characters guess what was unfolding around them. In light of what we learn at the end it just seems cruel and harsh for these items to be planted seeing that they are all supposed to be friends.
Verdict: I'd read quite a lot of good things about this film prior to seeing it but although many seem to hold it in high regard I found myself to be more disappointed with it than anything else. Although I wasn't keen on the ending myself I can appreciate the way it changes the game and turns everything on its head so it wasn't that in itself that turned me off but rather just not being as entertained as I thought I would be in the journey leading up to it. Even though I felt cheated with the end I actually felt it did elevate things in a sense to at least make it more memorable and clever but ultimately too little too late to make me want to rate it any higher. Just too boring for me with little to recommend it beyond the creepy little touches here and there in the mansion.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers)