Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!
I'm back, and I apologize for the brief hiatus. Family issues (a death in the family from last month lead to a service this month, and that included travel and then having to catch up on work) caused me to be away. But I'm back, and ready to close out this month and hope that August is better.
I’m going to spoil April Fool’s Day. I’m telling you that up front and before the break so that if you don’t want this 35-year-old movie spoiled for you, you can move on, or you can watch it on Amazon Prime and then come back and read this. There are worse ways to spend 89 minutes, but there are better ways, too. I’m just going to leave that here so that you can also decide if it’s worth your time to check this out or not. Honestly, I’d recommend against it.
The issue with April Fool’s Day is that it was diving head-first into a saturated market. The They Shoot Zombies list has included nearly 30 horror movies from 1986, and while I couldn’t list them for you off the top of my head, this is the year between the second and third Nightmare on Elm Street films, and also right in the middle of the Friday the 13th series and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. It’s also one of the series of films based on specific actual or “kinda” holidays--Halloween, Friday the 13th [again], Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine… To distinguish itself, the movie had to do something that the audience expected (kill teens/early 20-somethings) and something completely unexpected to be memorable.
At first, my thinking was that the unexpected path we were going to take is that our victims are all going to be the sort of East Coast Ivy League/old money bastards who wonder how anyone can survive without both an upstairs and downstairs maid. Our collection of overly entitled white people (and yes, they’re all snowy white) are spending a spring break weekend on an island owned by their friend’s family. So, we’re not talking about rich people. We’re talking “own their own island” rich people.
And here’s the thing, aside from the child of that owner, whose name is the just-on-the-edge-of-believability Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman), none of these people are different. Oh, there’s a guy who has a country fried accent and another guy who passes for a rebel, and there’s a small amount of introspection once or twice where one of them realizes his immense privilege and the fact that he’s done nothing with it (and probably won’t), but otherwise I had no idea which character was who. Names like Harvey, Kit, and Arch are thrown around almost without meaning. Okay, not quite—Arch is played by Thomas F. Wilson, who is immediately recognizable as his most famous character, Biff Tannen.
Anyway, this all naturally takes place on April Fool’s Day, and so there are minor pranks. There’s also a serious accident on the ferry as the group makes it out to the island. A local is pinned between the boat and the dock and is horribly disfigured. But, since our main characters are all staggeringly wealthy and live consequence-free lives, this is soon put behind them and they go off to the giant house to party. More minor pranks ensue, and then these become darker and more mean-spirited as the night goes on. Eventually, the people start disappearing and then turning up dead. It’s exactly what you expect, although in this case, there are mere hints at people being killed off and almost nothing that counts as a real scare until we start seeing bodies.
And now comes the point where I’m going to spoil everything. Through a series of clues, we learn that Muffy St. John has a twin sister—yes, an evil twin—who has escaped from an asylym, and is clearly hunting everyone down. This is hammered home when the remaining survivors find Muffy’s body in the basement. And then we get the ending that is just a notch above “it was all a dream.” It wasn’t a dream—it was a hoax. Muffy is planning on creating horror/mystery weekends at her house and used everybody to test the concept. Even the guy hurt at the docks was in on it, as was the sheriff. And in a shocker ending, one of the crew sneaks up behind Muffy and slits her throat…and that’s a prank, too.
So there you have it: April Fool’s Day is a slasher movie where no one actually dies. And I cannot express just how frustrating that is, because more than virtually any other slasher movie I have ever seen, I want these characters to die. These faceless, personality-free, bland stand-ins for humanity have had (as characters, admittedly) every possible privilege handed to them, and they can’t even die for our entertainment. And not even any nudity.
Fuck, and I don’t say this lightly, this movie.
Why to watch April Fool’s Day: It does take an unexpected path
Why not to watch: The last 10 minutes or so are very frustrating.
April Fool’s Day, horror, Fred Walton