April Fool’s Day (1986)
Director Fred Walton is no stranger to horror, giving us films such as When a Stranger Calls and The Rosary Murders, but thirty years ago, he served us something entirely different with April Fool’s Day.
Muffy St. John (yeah, that’s her real name) is putting together a party for her friends at her isolated mansion on the water for spring break. Off the bat you get a weird feeling about this chick, and it doesn’t help that she’s having some flashbacks to her birthday as a child, terrified as a jack-in-the-box is given to her as a prank and a weird creature pops out. It looks like the mom might have been the effed up one giving her kid the toy, so you just know this chick is fucked up.
Muffy’s having eight friends over for the weekend: Sexy, sassy Nikki and her funny, boundary-less boyfriend Chaz (Clayton Rohner of The Relic), Chaz’s best friend and lovable oaf Arch, sensible Kit (Amy Steel of Friday the 13th 2) and her boyfriend Rob (Ken Olandt of Leprechaun), Muffy’s cousin Skip, quiet and demure Nan, and upscale hillbilly Hal. Chaz, always a camera in hand, videos Muffy’s friends as they take the ferry over to her house. The first person he interviews is Nikki, who introduces herself: “I’m Mary O’Reilly O’Toole O’Shea…I want to work with handicapped children. My parents are my best friends. Next semester I start convent school, and… I fuck on the first date.” This sets the tone for the rest of the movie; basically, you’re watching a bunch of weirdo, privileged, directionless friends have a great time together…until an April Fool’s Day prank goes terribly awry and sets a series of unfortunate incidents into motion.
Arch and Skip are having some fun throwing a switchblade at each other, as one does with their friends, and Arch pretends to throw the knife into Skip’s stomach as he flails into the water. Unaware that it’s a joke, a few of the guys, including a deckhand named Buck, jump in the water to help. Once they figure out that it’s a prank, everyone gets back on the ferry except Buck, who decides to rope the ferry to the dock while he’s in the water. As expected, he gets crushed between the boat and the dock, and his face gets pretty ripped up.
Muffy goes to greet her guests and Buck is immediately taken to the hospital, putting a damper on their fun weekend…but it isn’t long before they forget all about him and have a nice dinner together at the house. Muffy proves to be quite the prankster this April Fools’ weekend; she’s pulled out all the stops, including whoopie cushions, moving eyes behind paintings, trick chairs, and lights that turn on as the others are turned out. It isn’t long before things get creepy and a little personal with each room containing something that delves into her guests’ darkest secrets, making them a little uneasy about their stay at casa de St. John. You soon learn that everyone in the house isn’t quite who they seem to be, as everyone has something to hide.
With such a big cast in a horror film, you know that it won’t be long before people start getting bumped off. One by one, each of Muffy’s guests go missing, as Muffy seems disoriented and acts very bizarre. (Deborah Foreman really went for it and was totally believable as a super creep.) Kit and Rob follow clues to try to figure out who’s behind it all…but will they be able to solve the mystery before it’s too late?
I liked the fact that although it was filmed in 1986, it had no problem poking fun at itself for typical 80s behavior. It kinda reminded me of Night of the Creeps in that way. I also enjoyed that it could make fun of the rich kids while still making them lovable, so you actually care about what happens to them.
It’s light on gore and there’s no nudity, so it’s pretty tame as far as horror movies go. As with many horror films, this movie has a twist… but it wasn’t the twist I thought it would be. I’ll leave that for you to see for yourself, but the twist is what made this cheeky whodunnit a cult classic.
Jessica's Final Review
If you liked Happy Birthday to Me, you’ll probably like April Fool’s Day, because the movies are very similar. This one could have easily been a complete miss, but a lot of what held it together was that you really bought that these people were actually friends. They must have spent a lot of time together filming, because they genuinely looked like they were having a great time, which made it fun to watch. That's really the point of the movie; it’s a good time, and it’s clear that rather than scaring you, Walton wants you to have fun watching, making it the perfect horror film to enjoy this April Fool’s Day.