April Fool’s Day
Directed by Fred Walton
Written by Danilo Bach
Produced by Frank Mancuso, Jr.
Starring Deborah Foreman, Griffin O’Neal, Clayton Rohner, Jay Baker, Pat Barlow
DVD | Instant Video
Original release dates: March 27, 1986
It only feels appropriate today to discuss one of the truly original horror films of one of the most unoriginal eras in horror history. The 1980s churned out hundreds of slasher films with disturbingly similar plots and characters. And since 1974â€™s Black Christmas, it felt every holiday got its own horror film; including Halloween, New Yearâ€™s Evil, and My Bloody Valentine. So it only made sense in 1986 to make another seasonal slasher: April Fool’s Day.
Directed by Fred Walton, a horror aficionado whose 1979 When a Stranger Calls contains one of the great openings in horror history, April Foolâ€™s Day is possibly the most unique thriller of the 80s, and an inspiration for the self-referential horror films in the mid-90s. The story is about Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman), a rich teenager who is having a birthday bash in her island mansion. The most 80s group of friends show up to ferry over for the party. Thereâ€™s the stoner guy, the hot popular couple, the blonde bimbo, the jock looking to score (a hilarious post Back to the Future Biff Tannen aka Thomas F. Wilson), and of course Harvey (Jay Baker) the Michael J. Fox-esque young Republican in training.
The theme of pranks and jokes is established right at the beginning through a montage of young Muffy opening a birthday present only to be scared by a sinister jack-in-the-box. On the ferry, a knife-throwing game ends horribly wrongâ€¦ or so we think. Of course when one member of the crew is serious injured in an accident, the fun suddenly gets an air of uneasiness. Structured much like the clichÃ©d films of the time and genre, AFD gets the kids to the island and after some nice back and forth dialogue begins the process and killing them off one by one.
Whatâ€™s unique is how the film craves style and suggestion over gore and violence. While Jason, Freddy, and Michael hacked limbs and came up with interesting and occasionally ridiculous ways to kill nubile teens, here the focus is paid more to whatâ€™s going on instead of whoâ€™s doing the killing. There are references to tragic events of the past, twins, mental institutions, etc. But whatâ€™s real and whatâ€™s prank? There in lies the genius of April Foolâ€™s Day. I will not spoil the ending for those who have been living under rocks since 1986, but suffice to say, itâ€™s something youâ€™ve never seen before in horror, and helps keep AFD a relevant horror classic.
In what might be a great, yet annoying April Foolâ€™s Day joke, the film was taken off the Netflix horror list THIS MORNING! I re-watched it last night, and woke up this morning and it was GONE! So to enjoy a great horror film in celebration of April Foolâ€™s Day today, go to Amazon Instant Video where you can rent it for $2.99.