The Film: April Fool’s Day
The Principles: Starring Deborah Foreman, Amy Steel, Thomas F. Wilson, Clayton Rohner, Jay Baker and Deborah Goodrich. Written by Danilo Bach. Directed by Fred Walton.
The Premise: Eight privileged college kids are invited by their friend Muffy St. John to spend the weekend at her parents’ secluded island mansion. Harmless “April Fool’s Day” pranks ensue, but things become tense as the guest list is trimmed down one dead body at a time by a mysterious killer.
Is it any good?: I think it’s an absolutely brilliant second wave holiday themed slasher that I would place as one of my all-time top ten faves. Although it plays for the majority of its running time like a seriously toned horror film that follows a straight up slasher formula, guess what? April Fool! And it’s this skillfully played twist, which makes it a unique game changer for the genre that’s totally out-of-the-box awesome.
The set up is pure Slasher 101: A group of attractive, upper middle class coeds celebrating the end of their college years together are invited by their heiress friend Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman) for a spring break weekend getaway at her isolated island home. The kids spend their time playing harmless pranks on one another and hooking up under the sheets. That is until some mysterious figure begins taking them each out one-by-one. As the bodies begin to pile up so does the list of suspects and the red herrings are a plenty. Or is it all just part of a very elaborate and cruel April Fool’s joke?
The cast is one of the finest ensembles ever put together for one of these types of films. Amy Steel (Friday the 13th Part 2) brings her survival girl mojo to the table as Kit, the cutie next-door type who can kick ass when push comes to shove… or machete. The ultra-hot 80’s icon Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl, Waxwork, Destroyer) plays heiress Muffy St. Clair with a sultry bitchiness, as well as her withdrawn twin sister Buffy. A post-Back to the Future Biff – Thomas F. Wilson is Arch the lecherous party animal that’s always trying to get laid. And then you’ve got Clayton Rohner (Destroyer) as Chaz, the hipster video artist who records interviews with everyone on his camcorder. It’s like The Big Chill only with a psychotic killer running around.
Frank Mancuso Jr., the man who gave us Body Parts, Species and Friday the 13th III-V, produced it. Director Fred Walton and writer Danilo Bach do a really nice job of keeping this one from becoming predictable in any way. Add an eerie score and some gory yet subtle kills and you’ve got yourself one fun little cut-‘em-up that will blow your mind with its final “shock” ending.
Is it worth a look?: By 1986 the second wave of the slasher genre was in full effect and the formula had been exhausted of creativity. That’s what makes this one such a breath of fresh air. It’s a classy looking, well acted horror film that hits all the right notes in terms of suspense and kills, but it’s the original spin taken on the material that elevates it to the level of a classic from this era. As far as slasher films set during a holiday goes, this one scores major points for sticking to its theme.
Random anecdotes: This underrated gem is out of print on home video from Paramount and is no longer available on Netflix, so unless you have the original VHS or a copy of the out of print DVD the April Fool’s joke is on the horror community. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a Blu-ray release someday soon.
Cinematic soul mates: Friday the 13th, Mother’s Day, My Bloody Valentine, Graduation Day, Prom Night, Happy Birthday To Me, Slumber Party Massacre, The House on Sorority Row and April Fool’s Day (2008).