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April Fool's Day (1986)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
Genres / Traits:
Horror, Horror Comedy, Slasher Film, Whodunit, April Fools' Day
Director:
Fred Walton Fred Walton
Starring:
Jay Baker Jay Baker
Pat Barlow Pat Barlow
Lloyd Berry Lloyd Berry
Deborah Foreman Deborah Foreman
Deborah Goodrich Deborah Goodrich

5.3 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: April 01, 2006
It's April Fool's Day, and a group of college friends have been invited to the island home of mutual friend Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman) to spend one last weekend together before moving on to "the real world" of work and the general adult life. The weekend gets off to a bad start, however, when one of the guys from the group is involved in a particularly nasty boating accident thanks to an April Fool's Day prank pulled by one of the other fellows. He's rushed back to the mainland for medical attention, and the rest of the group are understandably upset about this tragic turn of events, but they decide to carry on with the weekend as planned. It all starts out innocently enough; the couples in the group have wild, unprotected sex (a staple of eighties slashers), the group have discussions about the good times they've had together, and of course, there's plenty of light-hearted April Fool's Day jokes. Things get a bit nasty, however, when someone starts playing some very cruel practical jokes on the other members of the group, such as placing a tape recording of a baby crying inside the room of a woman who just had an abortion. Needless to say, everyone is on edge about this and they're wondering who is responsible for the sick jokes... but when people start to turn up deceased, the remaining members of the group realize that they're stranded on an island with a serial killer. Who could it be, and why would they ever want to do this to these poor, innocent people?

Seven years prior to the release of this movie, director Fred Walton was responsible for the excellent When A Stranger Calls, so needless to say, I had high hopes for this one as well. As you may recall from Stranger, the movie started off with one of the most suspenseful scenes in modern cinematic history, but it quickly slowed down after that scene. Many have criticized the movie because of that decision, but personally, I felt that everything worked out nicely. With this movie, Walton takes the opposite approach; it starts out as a very boring film, to be blunt, but it quickly picks up once the body count starts to rise. Walton goes on to show that he still has that "it" factor that he had previously shown off in the opening moments of Stranger, and we're treated to one hell of a suspenseful film as a result. Still, it would have been nice had the opening thirty minutes been cleaned up a bit... there were numerous occasions where I was close to turning off the DVD player and skipping this movie altogether. This wasn't a case of the film simply being slow to tell an interesting story, as was the case with Stranger; no sir, this movie was flat out boring for that first half hour.

Then, when this suspenseful final act has played out to completion, we have the ending. I won't spoil it here (although the back of the DVD case does a great job of that), but I will say that the rumored alternate ending would have worked out so much better. There's two problems with the existing ending, in my humble opinion, and the first is the predictability. The film, in true eighties slasher style, tries to keep the audience guessing as to who the serial killer actually is. A clue will be given to the audience that makes you think "Oh, it's definitely ____, they have to be the one doing this", but then another clue is given that totally contradicts that piece of information and makes you think that it's somebody else. Then, the ending rolls around and it's the one person that you least expected... well, it's supposed to be, as the film gives away the ending midway through the plot. Think of it like this: would The Sixth Sense have worked out so well if you had realized that Bruce Willis was a ghost at the thirty minute mark? Of course not, and that's the chief problem with this film; they try to keep you guessing as to who's responsible, but they make it abundantly clear very early on in the storyline.

The second problem that I had with the ending was the final twist, which again, I won't spoil here. After we've found out who's responsible for all of this mayhem, his or her motivations for doing this is revealed to the audience in the final twist of the film. While I'll admit that this final twist fits the tone of the movie, it's still a bit of a cop-out ending. I personally hate movies that end with an "It was all a dream" revelation, and while that isn't what happens here, it's close enough to draw my ire anyway. Again, the final twist does fit the movie, so I can't gripe about it too much, but a little something more would have done wonders for my opinion of a movie that, up until then, was definitely getting on my good side.

Today is April Fool's Day, so giving this movie a rental to celebrate the "holiday" wouldn't be too bad of an idea. It's entertaining once you get past the dreadful opening acts, there's some suspenseful scenes, and you could definitely do much worse when it comes to eighties slashers. However, when the date switches over to April 2nd, I couldn't recommend this movie to anyone but the most diehard of slasher fans. 4/10.
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