Review by Dave Kaye
*** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- A Cut Above the Rest
Release Date- March 27th, 1986
Running Time- 89-Minutes
Screenplay- Danilo Bach
Director- Fred Walton
Starring- Amy Steel, Deborah Foreman, Deborah Goodrich, Ken Olandt, Leah Pinsent, Clayton Rohner, Jay Baker, Griffin O’Neal, Thomas F. Wilson
Released in 1986 April Fool’s Day is sometimes dubbed the slasher flick that killed the sub-genre. I never really understood that comment since by the time the film was released the slasher flick was nearing its end. While through the rest of the 80s slasher flicks would still be produced at a pretty high rate the films were hardly making the impact they once did. Actually outside of really Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street most slasher flicks really weren’t huge hits. They were produced on a low budget a lot of times under a million and when they turned a profit by right they were big hits even if they weren’t breaking box office records.
By the time April Fool’s Day came along the slasher flick was starting to play up to the clichés of the early 80s or going for the body count and some were adding comedic tones. Even the early slasher flicks were kinda campy, but they were mostly played straight, but by 1986 filmmakers were making them campy on purpose. April Fool’s Day plays up to the clichés, but not in the way Scream would later do and rather go for suspense and tension April Fool’s Day plays light and fun for the most part and while it’s a flawed movie it’s also hardly the movie that ended the slasher flick. I think the amount of slasher flicks made during the 80s to the point where it was the same movie over and over again led to the downfall as well as all the sequels produced.
The screenplay by Danilo Bach is actually kinda smart and creative; Bach takes the basic element seen in the early 80s, but is able to put a little different of a spin on things. The characters are typical, but they are also entertaining. I suppose the characters are inter-changeable since none really stand out and are all pretty much the same, but again they are entertaining and that helps elevate the script. Despite being entertaining none are really all that likeable, but in general they aren’t un-likeable either. Overall the script is a lot of fun and while this may not be anything special it serves its purpose.
Director Fred Walton is best known for his directorial debut in 1979 with the cult classic When a Stranger Calls, which in my opinion has the greatest opening act in any horror or thriller movie. After that the movie does slowdown, but on multiple viewings it plays out better. But like I said the opening act is amazing and damn creepy and even people who didn’t like the film often cite the opening act as great and creepy filmmaking. Here with April Fool’s Day, Walton never quite reaches that epic level, but he does make a fun movie.
For the most part Fred Walton options for a light and fun atmosphere rather than suspense and tension. The first half of April Fool’s Day is very light hearted and fun with mostly comedy or some kinda light moments, but as the movie goes on the pacing does start to lag and the problem is since Walton isn’t really trying to make a suspenseful movie April Fool’s Day can at times drag in certain spots. The final 35-minutes or so April Fool’s Day changes gears a bit and Fred Walton then attempts at creating suspense and tension and it works to a certain degree.
Walton manages some decent suspense, but overall it’s just slightly lacking and in my opinion April Fool’s Day worked better when Walton was going for a more lighthearted atmosphere rather than suspense. That isn’t to say the suspense scene don’t work, but they don’t work as well as they could have, but they still get the job done I suppose.
The reviews for April Fool’s Day are often mixed and a lot of the negative reviews always seem to hate the ending and while I can’t argue that point since in some ways it does feel like we were cheated it is however a nice twist. Bach & Walton do manage to outsmart the audience and I think due to that people feel cheated. Like I said I can’t argue the point people make about the ending and on my first viewing many, many years ago I would totally agree, but as I got older I found a certain level of respect for the twist at the end. Maybe it’s sort of a cheat, but I think it works well.
April Fool’s Day like many 80s slasher flicks has built a cult following, but it’s also sort of forgotten about and this may not be in the top 10 of 80s slasher flicks I do think it should get more attention than it gets. Like many movies from this era it got a remake, which starred Scout Taylor-Compton and was easily one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. But the original may not be a classic of the genre it does make for an entertaining movie; the pacing can kinda lag at times during the middle, but when all is said and done it makes for a fun night.