April Fool’s Day

Movie Information

In Brief: This was a "fan pick" — and one that happened to fall on the right day (or close enough). Apparently, April Fool's Day is well-loved — at least by those who saw it when it came out in 1986 and were at an impressionable age. Even if I had seen it when it came out, I doubt that 32 would have been an impressionable enough age to have been quite sold on what is essentially a riff on the Friday the 13th formula — a formula that had already gone through many mutations by 1986. April Fool's Day was actually made for Paramount by exploitation producer Frank Mancuso Jr., meaning it had a certain Friday the 13th legitimacy — same studio, frequent Friday producer. (Whether it is wholly coincidental that the Friday series hit its high watermark with Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives upon Mancuso's departure to make this is an open question.) What you get is slasher basic — meat-on-the-hoof "teens" at the mercy of an unknown maniac in an isolated setting — but with a wrinkle. The wrinkle is the biggest thing the movie has going for it, so it can't be talked about — even though I can't say I found it a very wrinkly wrinkle. Is it worth seeing? Well, if you're a fan of this kind of ’80s horror, yes. Otherwise ... well, it's the right time of year for it.
Score:

Genre: Horror
Director: Fred Walton
Starring: Jay Baker, Pat Barlow, Lloyd Berry, Deborah Foreman
Rated: R

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What is there to be said about April Fool’s Day? As already noted, its major point of interest — the only point of interest — lies in something we can’t talk about, though I’m not sure that mentioning it at all doesn’t pretty much give the game away. Otherwise, the film isn’t a whole lot more than a somewhat tepid and leisurely paced (it takes about 40 minutes to get to its first scare) Friday the 13th knock-off. Freshly-scrubbed teens — most of whom look like they stepped in from a breath-mint commercial — out for one of those hot weekends that turn out to be very ill-advised indeed. There is a certain archaeological value you in seeing what was considered appealing in 1986 — boys with feathered blow-dry hair, who — when shirtless — do not appear to spend every waking moment at a gym. (This second part I found rather refreshing, the hair somewhat less so.) Also in its favor is the fact that it’s rather good natured about its mayhem, which is to say that its grisly parts are never of the unpleasantly sadistic variety. It’s kind of fun. Just don’t be expecting an overlooked masterpiece.

 

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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17 thoughts on “April Fool’s Day

  1. T.rex

    A fair review. Thanks again Ken. You might be right about this being a generational thing. All the people I know that love it are my age and nostalgia has a lot going for it but I’m glad you appreciated its willingness to scare without being grotesque for grotesque sake. See you there.

  2. Harry Long

    Indeed the wrinkle is pretty minor indeed. Yet even today these slasher films are made to the same precise formula without even a suggestion of a wrinkle anywhere in the proceedings.

  3. T.rex

    Wrinkles aside there are some scenes that still today give me goose bumps today (SPOILERS HERE…….cat eyes clock behind the painting cut out, the dolls in the attic, etc etc)

    • Ken Hanke

      Exactly. I’m still creeped out by the trailer (not the film) for Curse of the Werewolf, which would send me scurrying for the lobby when I was seven.

  4. T.rex

    Now that them screening is over I can say that Anchor Bay needs to step up and release a better dvd of this. There were other endings filmed, one including the cousin Skip returning to the island and killing people for real. The picture of the dead body on the dvd is not even from the movie.. Jeeeez.

    • Ken Hanke

      You really think there’s a market? We weren’t exactly packed.

        • Ken Hanke

          And to hell with various endings, are there punchier opening 40 minutes versions? To me, that’s where the trouble lies.

          • Ken Hanke

            I suppose when whichever it is beefy boy gets decked in the boat house. That’s the first thing that isn’t a false scare (well, in this case…). The first real frisson is when the body is glimpsed gliding under the boat house.

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