April Fool’s Day (1986)

Synopsis:

A wealthy young woman invites nine classmates to her mansion located on a private island. A fun weekend with friends turns into a hellish nightmare when an unnamed assailant starts killing guests one at a time.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“It’s gotta be better than nice. It’s gotta be bloody unforgettable.”

A surprisingly smart and engaging re-imagining of Agatha Christie’s famous mystery tale And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians). Believe it or not, Christie’s whodunit formula blends amusingly well with the sensibilities of a 1980s teen slasher — April Fool’s Day is one of the most interesting horror movies of the era.

After so many holiday-themed slashers — Halloween, My Bloody Valentine, Happy Birthday to Me, etc. — it was no surprise to see a movie about April Fools’ Day. The film came out at the tail end of the slasher craze of the ’80s, and April Fool’s Day seemed to be aware that the vogue for types of movies was about to end. It’s cheeky in places and the film ends, figuratively and literally, with a wink at the audience.

April Fool’s Day was directed by Fred Walton, who is better known for his terrifying 1979 classic When a Stranger Calls. The script is by Oscar-nominated writer Danilo Bach (Beverly Hills Cop). Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, Walton and Bach chose to playfully embrace genre clichés. They also don’t rush things, allowing ample time for character development. Some viewers might find the movie a bit slow, but I appreciated the desire to provide something besides grusome killings.

April Fool’s Day is hell-bent on making fun of genre tropes, and it works because all actors are not only part of, but in on the joke. Griffin O’Neal (Ryan’s son) and Thomas F. Wilson (Back to the Future) are the jackasses. Leah Pinsent (The Bay Boy) is the goody-tushy virgin. Deborah Goodrich (Just One of the Guys) is the classic slut.

No slasher movie is complete without the over-sexed young man, played by Clayton Rohner (The Relic). Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl), in dual roles, plays the characters that trigger the onslaught. The cleverest piece of casting is Amy Steel, star of Friday the 13 Part 2, as “The Final Girl” — Steel is clearly making fun of her most famous role. All the actors seem to be having a blast, and you like them for enjoying themselves.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

April Fool’s Day is a cleverly self-aware thriller. It anticipates the meta-crazy Scream (1996) by a decade. Some viewers have reacted negatively to the twisty finale, but I thought it was exactly what was needed at the time when the slasher genre was coming to an end. It’s an unofficial farewell to a whole era, laying the ground for the more cynical horror films of the ’90s. Highly recommended! Color, 95 minutes, Rated R.

15 responses to “April Fool’s Day (1986)

  1. Wow! This is quite literally where a lot of my thoughts landed when I saw this film a few days ago. So many of the same points are had as when wrote about it. Brilliant! Definitely my favorite slasher from this time period!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I didn’t like this film at all, thought it too preposterous even if judging it by its own standards, but I really liked the twist ending, enjoyed it immensely even knowing it was coming all along. It was nicely done.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Just scanning through your reviews and had to see what you thought about April Fool’s Day. I saw this not too long after its theatrical release so kind of during the end of that slasher era. I’ve always had a fondness for the film that I find hard to explain to others. I also think the poster is great.

    Liked by 2 people

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