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 1974’s Black Christmas, it felt every holiday got its own horror film; including Halloween, New Year’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 Fool’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. There’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 wrong”¦ 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.
What’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 what’s going on instead of who’s doing the killing. There are references to tragic events of the past, twins, mental institutions, etc. But what’s real and what’s prank? There in lies the genius of April Fool’s Day. I will not spoil the ending for those who have been living under rocks since 1986, but suffice to say, it’s something you’ve never seen before in horror, and helps keep AFD a relevant horror classic.
In what might be a great, yet annoying April Fool’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 Fool’s Day today, go to Amazon Instant Video where you can rent it for $2.99.