Do you know what day it is? okay yes, it’s Friday, but what I mean is that today is none other than April Fool’s Day! It’s a special, one day event where you’re supposed to play a trick on someone – or a group of people – just because someone a long time ago thought of it as harmless fun. Maybe it is, I’ve never been one to take part in it, at least – not to the point of driving someone over the edge..like some people. Today though, being April 1st, I’m taking a different approach to April Fool’s Day, I’m not going to talk pranks and tricks, but I’m going to talk about a little cult classic horror movie with the same title: April Fool’s Day. As with many, if not all, expect spoilers in this review. I’m going to cover the entire movie. I mean, I have to, if I’m going to explain why I didn’t like it the first time around. [Since my reasoning is “the twist at the end” and who the killer turns out to be]
Directed by Fred Walton, April Fool’s Day is a 1986 American mystery/horror film that follows a group of college students and their weekend getaway to an island estate [belonging to another, but wealthy classmate] which seems to be infiltrated by a killer on the loose. It’s not necessarily a “scary” movie, when I first watched this movie – I didn’t enjoy it. Actually, I was quite upset with it; I couldn’t believe the ending. I took it as a cheap way to write everything off.. but watching it again, I came to understand: it does take place over April Fool’s Day and the weekend following. [oddly enough, this movie’s “April Fool’s” takes place on a Friday, kind of like today!]
Our movie revolves around eight people: Harvey, Nikki, Rob, Skip, Nan, Chaz, Kit, Arch and the rich Muffy St. John. Almost immediately, The tone is set, with Muffy preparing little details around the house, and finds an old jack-in-the-box. Her friends, meanwhile, are joking around on a pier, waiting on a ferry. But while on their way to the island, Buck, a deckhand on said ferry, is seriously injured in a gruesome accident.
Once the friends arrive on the island [and into the mansion], it turns out what Muffy was doing earlier was setting up a variety of little jokes, from simple whoopee cushions,and “dribble glasses”, to the more complex and somewhat disturbing “pranks”. [We see her put an audiotape of a baby crying in someone’s room and even heroin paraphernalia in another person’s wardrobe! She sees this as “just for fun!”] Though somewhat harmless, the friends – over all – try to relax..It’s just April Fool’s Day, right? Except then, Skip goes missing.. and Kit catches a glimpse of what looks like his dead body! Next, Arch and Nan go missing. [wait, what?] During the search for Arch/Nan, Nikki falls into the island’s well – only to find the severed heads of Skip and Arch and the dead body of Nan! [what the hell is going on?] Trying to escape the killer, the remaining group learn that the phones are dead, and there is no way to get off the island until Monday..
With already half of the group of friends left, something need, or someone, needs to explain themselves. People keep dying. One after another, people keep vanishing, only to end up being killed with their bodies being found. Finally, we get some answers. It turns out that Kit and Rob put together some of the clues in front of them, learning that everyone’s earlier assumption is wrong. It turns out the deckhand who got injured earlier, is nothing but a red herring and it turns out that Muffy, has a violent [and insane] sister: Buffy, who has escaped! That’s right: the “Muffy” they have been around since the first night on the island was actually Buffy pretending to be Muffy.. This causes them to discover Muffy‘s severed head in the basement. [did you catch that? I got confused just typing it out] So there’s your twist: Muffy is actually Buffy, and is killing everyone..or is she? By this point, Buffy‘s true identity is discovered, so she chases them around the mansion with a butcher’s knife separating the remaining people. While Kit flees from Buffy into the living room, she finds everyone else [who previously died] there, fully alive and calmly waiting for her..REWIND a second, WHAT THE HELL?
Think about it for a second. What weekend was it? April Fool’s Day. It was all a joke, or more accurately, a dress rehearsal. It is becomes clear to the audience that the whole movie that we just experienced was never meant to be a slasher film, but rather pretending to be one. Muffy actually has hopes to turn her mansion into a horror themed resort. She even had a friend who does special effects and make-up for Hollywood to help out with everything. As for the victims? They all agreed to take part as things were [slowly] explained to them..
Now that that’s all done and over with, everyone has a laugh and break out the bottles of champagne. Later that night, while talking about their “experience”, a half-drunk Muffy goes to her room. She finds a wrapped present on her bed. Smiling, she opens the gift. Turns out, it’s the jack-in-the-Box we saw at the beginning of the movie. Savoring her new found surprise, she turns the handle slowly. When “Jack” finally pops out, Nan appears behind Muffy and slits her throat with a razor! [there’s our killer, right?] Naturally, Muffy screams, but then realizes she isn’t really bleeding. She “got” her with a trick razor and stage blood.. The film ends with the Jack-in-the-box winking at the audience.
Arguably, I think it’s pretty obvious why I didn’t like this movie the first time around: I just didn’t enjoy the concept of a movie that turns out to be “fake” all along. As I said at the beginning of this review, I thought it was a cheap way out of explaining everything at first. I understand that it was April Fool’s Day during the weekend at the mansion, but it feels “too easy.” It must have been though, because in 2008, they remade the film [as a straight to DVD release] with the same title: April Fool’s Day – though the story and characters in this version are radically different. I enjoy the movie now, but it wouldn’t make it into my top five slasher films of the 80s, if such a list existed. For now, here’s a trailer for the more tolerable [but questionable] original 1986 film.
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