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 (Possibly available as a foreign language import Blu Ray).
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 time goes on.
Good Points: *Muffy's mansion home makes for a top location to stage the drama. It reminded me of the mansion from the original Resident Evil video game in some ways and made for an odd and unsettling piece of stage dressing.
In addition to the house itself there are several creepy little touches that work well and add to the taut 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. Though only little things these props sprinkled in as they are really enhance the creep factor.
The island was a neat way of isolating the characters as well and putting them out of reach of outside help due to the limited ferry service.
*The ending is very clever and not something I expected or saw coming at all on first viewing. Assuming you're watching for the first time and haven't read any spoilers then it should come as quite a shock. It was top creative thinking and changed the game for the genre to some extent from that point onward.
The ending is very much a double edged sword however as although it's intelligent and goes someway to tying up some loose ends it is going to divide opinion and won't be to everyone's taste. I can see why it may leave people feeling a bit cheated. That said I decided to add it as a positive 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 mostly pretty good from the entire cast with no one letting the side down or coming across as too annoying. The actress playing Muffy who had a duel role did a good job in particular as did Amy Steel of Friday the 13th 2 fame who as final girl here is very solid. Both her character Kit and that of her boyfriend Rob come across as likeable. I also enjoyed the Hal/Harvey character for a bit of comedy as well as Nikki who made for sultry eye candy.
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.
Mild spoiler: I don't think we even see what happens to the Nan character with her corpse just turning up in the well. For a second or two I wasn't even sure who this body was supposed to be.
That said it isn't a complete damp squib with a couple of cool severed head type moments. Things could have been worse in this area but also a lot lot better.
*There are a few little bits I noticed that could have done with being tightened up or better explained. 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. It wasn't like the guy died either so to me it didn't seem all that plausible that Skip should blame himself as much as he did. The ending explains it yes but we were being led to believe something else regarding the deckhand for most of the film which wasn't really surported by the way the accident played out.
Very mild spoiler: Sticking with Skip another thing I didn't like was that it wasn't at all clear what he's supposed to be doing prior to him being attacked. He appears to be messing about with a plant in the dark and then roots around in a boathouse building 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.
My biggest issue though pertains to the items Muffy left in some of the guests rooms at night. These were supposed to hint at dark secrets from their past but I didn't think they tied in very well with the rest of the plot. I understand it was done to imply they were being targeted for past mistakes like doing drugs, having an abortion or being promiscuous. Muffy later refers to them as clues though which I don't think is accurate as they certainly don't hint at the ending of the film for the viewer nor would they 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.
Spoiler: I think it would have been better to have left more clues relating to the Muffy and Buffy twins angle in the vein of the photograph that Kit disciovered. This was more effective as it actually pointed at who the killer was directly. If the film makers were really dead set on wanting to include the drugs and abortion stuff etc then they should have related it to Buffy and her psychosis. Muffy could have created a character in Buffy who found out their mother for example considered an abortion once she discovered she was having twins. Perhaps it could have been said their father nearly overdosed on drugs. This way it would mean that the stuff left in the rooms were indeed proper clues as they would have alluded to things which triggered Buffy's anger.
Verdict: Seeing this for the first time a few years ago I initially wasn't very impressed giving it a rather low and harsh 4/10 rating here on the site. After giving it a second chance more recently I had a very different opinion.
Whereas originally I found it dull and boring it entertained me a lot more second time around and I found myself noticing little bits and pieces which I appreciated a lot more. It's still by no means a favourite of mine but I can now see it in a new light and understand why others hold it in such high regard.
The controversial ending and fairly tame approach with the gore will mean it looses points with some but it's clever with a creepy atmosphere.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers)
None as they were all revealed to be a ruse.