April Fool's Day (1986)
WRITER: Danilo Bach
DIRECTOR: Fred Walton
STARRING: Jay Baker as Harvey
Deborah Foreman as Muffy
Deborah Goodrich as Nikki
Ken Olandt as Rob
Griffin O'Neal as Skip
Leah King Pinsent as Nan
Clayton Rohner as Chaz
Amy Steel as Kit
Thomas F. Wilson as Arch
QUICK CUT: A group of old friends gather for Muffy's birthday party on April 1st, and before anyone even makes it to the island getaway, things start going wrong.
Muffy - A sweet girl from a well to do family, much like the rest of the cast. She's close to her friends, and loves pranks, and parties.
Chaz - Chaz is one of those sorts that is a bit of a jock, with a mean sense of humour, and a little too much into sex.
Harvey/Hal - A good ol' boy from down South, and a new friend of the group. He wants to meet a relative of Muffy's over the weekend for a business opportunity.
Rob & Kit - The main couple of the flick, and they spend most of the time trying to get away for some precious alone time. They end up finding a dead body every time.
THE GUTS: Having survived the triple threat wrath of Lucky O'Tool, I am almost glad to have something that isn't tinged with green beer. But it's still Trisk, and it's April Fool's Day, so here we are watching, well, April Fool's Day, original flavour.
We start off with a bunch of friends waiting for a ferry to head off to an island for a big party with their friend. They all give intros to a camera being held by their other friends, starting with Mary O'Reilly O'Toole O'Shea...and oh geeze, she's probably related to the Leprechaun. The delivery of everyone is awkward and stiff, and just bad.
At least now I know where Harper's Island stole the gimmick from. ...Anyone? Was I the only one that watched that show?
But whatever, everyone's planning to head to the island and have a big party with their friend Muffy St. John, and how in the seven hells am I suppose to take that name seriously?! Cut to Muffy dragging around a mannequin to get everything ready for a bloody unforgettable party. Her words, not mine!
Over on the shore, the gang has all arrived, and the ferry has shown up to take them to *snicker* Muffy's. We spend a few minutes on the long ride across the lake getting to know everyone, but it's not that interesting. The only real standout of the group is Chaz, your typical too cool for everything except crude jokes and nudie mags.
It's a good way to introduce the characters, sure, it's just a matter of having a few too many of them. Everyone starts to blur together after awhile. You may have noticed the character section was a bit light. Well, that's why. On the upside though, it should mean a hefty body count.
Speaking of which, some friendly knifeplay turns stabby when Not Jerry O'Connell angers one of the other kids and gets the switchblade thrown into his stomach for funsies. He topples back off the deck of the ferry and into the water. ...Until it's revealed to just be an April Fool's Day prank.
The hijinks continue until the boat arrives at the island, and one of the group gets caught between the boat and the dock, crushing his head a bit. He gets rushed out of the movie, but manages to not die yet.
I thank Corman for that opening injury at least, because if the time spent on the ferry getting to know the characters wasn't enough for ya? We then spend ten more minutes just having everyone talk and wander around Muffler's home and having dinner. I love the slow burn, but this may be one of the slowest I've seen. The occasional April Fool's prank helps keep things lively, at least.
Overall, it is a long road to the next truly interesting thing.
Even the music hasn't bothered to get in on the action since the credits, and it finally returns when Hal finds a few newspaper clipping scattered around his room about past tragedies. If this isn't the movie signalling me that the waiting is over, then I don't know what is. I hear music! Time to wake up!
That's not the weirdest thing people find in their rooms, as everything from a pair of manacles to a kit for prepping heroin turn up. On top of that, the pranks start ramping up as cigars explode, doorknobs come off, and lights start flicking on and off.
It's enough to make you question exactly what is real and what isn't with everything, and that is a great place to have your audience. Although, I am rapidly reaching a point of "Get on with it!" Even if it does make for a nice tone of ominous fun.
Skip sneaks off in the middle of the night to make SOMEthing happen, because no one can be alone, in the dark, in a horror movie. And the plot dutifully complies when he gets grabbed in the boathouse by an unseen assailant.
Rob and Kit sneak off to the boathouse for some time alone, and they discover Skip on a skiff skimming below them in the water.
They tell the group about seeing the boat drifting past them, and everyone runs around trying to find Skip and see if it was true or another prank. Well, everyone except for Muffy who is busy humming really loudly and ignoring everything.
Arch wanders off into the woods to try and find any sign of Skip, but all he finds is a snare trap that dangles him over the most convenient snake ever, and the unseen stalker appears.
With two of them now missing, they decide it's time to call the local constable, well, except for Little Miss Muffet who wants to make tea for everyone! Because nothing is wrong, la la la!
The faucet starts spurting out dirt, so Hal and Nikki head to the well to fetch something a little more fresh. Through a series of unfortunate events, Nikki has to climb down to get the bucket. She ends up falling into the water below, naturally. And hey! She found Skip and Arch and Nan, yay!
Well, less yay for her state of mental well being, but they found their friends, yay!
They finally reach the constable, but he's still checking in on Buck and his missing eye. He'll be back soon though, and tells them to just sit tight and try not to get killed any further.
Oh, and I should mention that Nan died somewhere during all this, but I'll be damned if I can remember which one is Nan, and how she disappeared or died. I think it was the one that was freaking out over a recording of a baby crying, because she had a secret abortion.
While they wait, they start talking about how Muffy's acting weird, and they all found strange stuff in their rooms, and all accusations start to turn towards Muffenstein. Well, until she walks in the room and causes the single most awkward silence I've ever seen, before she heads upstairs to be alone.
Everyone heads to the bedrooms for the night, with Hal keeping watch on the stairs. Which is a strange definition of 'sticking together' but I guess if everyone pairs off, that's okay. Well, except for Nikki who is packing her bags and getting ready to stand down at the pier until the constable shows up. An idea that is probably on the smarter side of things, for these people.
Chaz drives her up the wall and teases her with bondage masks, until he drives her out of the room. When she returns, he's just laying there motionless, and perfectly normal, la la la! No wait, he's actually dead. And he's missing his little Chaz, which is straight out of the ironic punishment department. Before Nikki can scream, our stalker seems to grab her as well.
Rob and Kit check out the attic to make sure there's no axe murderer lurking up there, and Rob confides in his girlfriend that the constable warned them to be especially wary of Muffy. He didn't say WHY because that would have been helpful and brought me joy.
Their theorising gets cut short when they see some dolls that look like all the gang, including ones left to drown in a bowl of water. Because that's not creepy.
Just as they find bloodied dolls of Chaz and Nikki, they see the flare go up from the arriving constable and go to grab the others. At least, that's the theory, but then they can't find anyone, and just hear an ominous thumping off in some room.
They eventually find Nikki's bloody body, which they don't bother to share, and then they run into Hal's hanging corpse, which we DO get to see, just not seeing him being taken. Man, this movie skips all the good bits. We get some bodies but not others, half of them we don't even see get taken or killed, just HEY randomly dead!
Which...is frustrating, but I like it at the same time, because you never know what's coming around any corner, or who it might be. If they're not on screen, they might be dead! Heck, Kit could turn her head away from Rob, and when she looks back he might be a bloody pile of ground chuck!
After all that, Rob and Kit get the hell out of the house and race for the dock, because fuck all of this. They find the constable's boat, but he's nowhere to be found. They DO find a note from a psychiatric hospital about Ms. St. John being in their care for the last three years and having recently escaped.
Rob remembers there's a key to the boat back in the house, so the pair reluctantly return, and Kit notices the doors have been closed. Well, yes. Because SOME people have apparently not been raised in a barn, unlike YOU two!!
They sneak in through the basement, because when you're trying to avoid a house of horrors and the killer inside, the BEST idea is to go into the dark, dank, dusty dungeon of Muffy the Vampire Slayer.
Kit and Rob finally piece things together when they see another name written on the wall, and they sort out that Muffy has a twin sister...BUFFY. Ahh, the evil twin trope. It's been, what? Four months since we've encountered that here?
Anyways, they discover Muffy's severed head, and English Buffin hammers shut the basement window they snuck in through.
So now we know why Muffy wasn't acting like herself, was wearing the shoes of someone from a hospital, and why the note *conveniently* only said Ms. St. John, instead of a first name, which would have been helpful. And normal. And not bending over backwards to not spoil the twist.
They run upstairs to try and find the keys for the boat, and Rob foolishly gets locked in a cupboard to keep him out of play for a few minutes.
Buffy breaks in and chases Kit around with a knife while she tries to talk the twin down from her murderous rampage of doom. Not that it does much good, and she's eventually pushed back into another room.
As Kit stumbles into the room, she turns and sees all her friends, alive and well, chatting quietly. Buffy walks in, gives a smile, and shows that the knife is a fake with a retractable blade, and holy shit that's awesome.
While Kit is going through the best April Fool's Day prank ever, Rob is still hilariously sobbing in the closet about how much he loves her and doesn't want her to die.
He gets grabbed by Buck with his fakely damaged eye still dangling. The scare rightly gets him punched in the face. That, that is the absolutely correct reaction to all of this. I am so glad someone did it, because it actually adds to the reality.
Everyone sits down and Muffy the Plot Maker explains everything; the house will soon be hers, but she has to maintain and pay for it. So she devised a plan to turn it into an inn, but one with one of those murder mystery whodunits to solve on your stay.
So, the plot is revealed to all and sundry, and everyone celebrates and has fun, without anyone holding any kind of grudge over the trauma caused to their psyches, yay!
The movie wraps up with Muffy heading to bed, drunk and smiling, and finding a birthday present waiting for her, of the jack in the box from the start of the film. Just as the thing pops though, shy quiet Nan jumps up from behind her and slits her throat...except that too is a prank as the pair kiss, leaving absolutely no one dead!
I think that's a first...?
Video: Looks decent enough for an 80s horror slasher.
Audio: A nice mix, with decent sound. Everyone is pretty audible, although I somehow managed to get names COMPLETELY botched in my initial notes from some garbling. Seriously, if there's still a "Brad" lurking in the final review somewhere, that's Arch. Really.
Sound Bite: "Brad is sweet, but he only has two emotions: collar up, and collar down." I hate that I understand exactly what this means.
Well, this movie is a special case, isn't it? I debated long and hard whether or not I'd even HAVE a body count, since ultimately NO ONE died. But I thought I'd still share all the FAKE deaths, because hey. They were treated as deaths until the prank was revealed, so enjoy!
1 - An honourable mention to Buck for getting such a major injury that he's rushed out of the movie before the first act is done.
2 - Skip gets grabbed 38 minutes in and is later found dead floating in a boat.
3 - Brad dangling from a snare gets snakebit and such.
4 - Nan went missing somewhere around this point and turned up in the well with the heads of Skip and Brad.
5 - With his manhood removed, Chaz dies happy, at least.
6 - Nikki disappears.
7 - Hal turns up hanged while we weren't looking.
8 - Muffy's head gets discovered, and who knows when she died.
9 - THEN THE ENTIRE PLOT GETS KILLED
Best Almost Corpse: Because, y'know... I'd give it to Buck, because the eye makeup was AWEsome, but he was NEVER treated as actually dead, so instead I give the shoutout to Chaz for being ironically perfect and creepy with the bondage mask.
Blood Type - C+: Most of the violence happens off screen, some of the bodies aren't even shown, but we do get some blood splattered here and there. However, they use it sparingly, but there are some really good severed heads all the way throughout the movie.
Sex Appeal: Not much, but some of the guys go shirtless!
Drink Up! An easy one this time out, just have a drink every time someone dies!
Movie Review: I had a line somewhere back there in the breakdown, about all the people randomly being taken unexpectedly and turning up, and you never knew what was going on, "frustrating, but I like it at the same time". That very much sums up my feelings on the movie. I literally could not decide between applauding loudly, or throwing the DVD across the room, at the big twist. It is so brilliantly annoying, and you see it coming, but you *don't* at the same time. When it happens, you should want to strangle the movie, but that's the POINT and it somehow works, even as you want to kill everyone involved and make sure they're dead this time. The biggest problem with the movie is the amount of characters, and only a few of them ever being fleshed out that well. But the story holds together well enough, when it could SO SO easily fall apart with such a giant fake out. It's not perfect, but most of the house of cards remains standing. The acting is pretty meh across the board, but it's thoroughly okay. Three out of five gruesome eye injuries.
Entertainment Value: The movie takes way too long to get going, with only Buck's very early injury and silly pranks to keep you interested for the first 30 minutes. And still, with all that time being taken, so few characters ever end up as more than names and faces, making it hard to care about when people fall off the radar. The movie IS a great roller coaster ride of fun once things start happening, and you seriously never know what is around the next corner, and I love that. A weak first half is made up for by a fun second half that keeps you guessing until the end, and you don't want to stop watching for fear of missing something. Three out five jack in the boxes.