“Then I’ll get on my knees and pray, we don’t get fooled again.”—The Who
Each year on April 1st, pranks, jokes, and foolishness are shared by millions in the western world on April Fool’s or All Fool’s Day. Its origin was first recorded in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and some of its origins are linked with the Roman Festival Hilaria, Medieval Feast of Fools and India’s Holi Festival. Its common practice in America for pranksters to play simple harmless jokes on a friend or more elaborate planned out scenarios that sometimes are borderline psychologically sadistic. After you are tired of duping everyone in your life today from your shenanigans, what better way to end the day with April Fool’s Day (1986)?
A group of eight college friends gather together to party for April Fool’s weekend at a desolate island mansion belonging to heiress Muffy St. John, Deborah Foreman of Valley Girl (1983). The group soon discovers that a hidden deep, dark secret from each of their pasts is revealed before each one goes missing and murdered like a graphic Scooby Doo episode. Muffy, is aware of the murders, but is mute to the fact her deranged twin sister Buffy, portrayed by Foreman may very well be the killer. With impending doom facing the group, the tension is turned up to pure panic when they discover the phones are dead, and there is no way to get off the island until Monday.
April Fool’s Day is a comedy/horror film directed by Fred Walton of When a Stranger Calls (1979), penned by Danilo Bach of Beverly Hills Cop (1984), and loosely inspired by mystery author Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None aka Ten Little Indians. April Fool’s Day was released when the slasher film (especially holiday horror) oversaturated the Cineplex (my favorite at this time was the AMC Orleans 8 on Bleigh Street in Philly) and started to become a mockery of itself, known for predictable narrative formula clichés far from the benchmarks of Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980), and The Burning (1981). April Fool’s Day is not the best entry of the subgenre, but it is far from being the worst. Fortunately, there are some elements that are fresh and the special effects (no Tom Savini, but pretty good) are worthy of mention backed by an eerie, effective score by Charles Bernstein, composer of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
April Fool’s Day’s performances were good, but some of the characters were better when offed as they were snobbish and irritating in nature and overall, not very likeable. The story was enjoyable and had the right amount of humor to balance out the horror. The film was fast paced and the viewer is treated to some surprises throughout the 3 acts. Where at times it can become a bit talky, it is made up for the unique death sequences of the characters.
April Fool’s Day is a neat little film nonetheless, and a must see for film buffs and students of the genre. Unfortunately, there was a 2008 direct-to-video remake that you should avoid like the plague as it is absolute rubbish and disrespectful to the source material. If you do decide to the original April Fool’s Day on DVD, look for triple feature disc with Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990) and Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift (1990) or the double feature release with holiday genre classic, My Bloody Valentine (1981). Due to the general public growing tired of slashers (besides teenagers) in the mid 1980’s, April Fool’s Days was a box office disappointment but has gone on to reach cult status due to its late night TV airings from die hard genre fans and backed by a novelization in 1986 by author Jeff Rovin. April Fool’s Day has received negative reviews due in part to it leaving some viewers feeling cheated upon the conclusion of the film just like many did with Happy Birthday to Me (1981). This April 1st, have a little fun and check out April Fool’s Day. You might be surprised.
So be careful out there today, and be leery of friends pulling your leg with outlandish stories, prank phone calls, or rot gut from leaving your coffee unsuspectingly open to the occasional Visine drop. Remember what American professional prankster Joey Skaggs warned us with, “It is the fool who thinks he cannot be fooled.”