Some holiday-themed movies are really good at capturing the essence of the day they’re set around. Many of them are not. There’s no bigger proof of this than the slew of Christmas horror movies that have virtually nothing to do with Christmas or even feels like it’s set in December. Many of these movies just slap a holiday in the title just to sell to a larger audience (I’m looking at you, The Day After Halloween).
A few years back I watched Slaughter High and was less-than-pleased with it. Fabulous setting with plenty of fun moments, but really didn’t stick the landing at the end. That alone is enough to leave a bad taste in the memory. Incidentally, Slaughter High was released in 1986, the same year as April Fool’s Day, which is, in my humble opinion, a significantly superior and more fun April Fool’s movie.
Why? Well, many reasons. But the first being it actually captures the fun and devilishness of the holiday. And April Fool’s is a pretty lame holiday, so I think it’s saying something that the film actually made me like pranks.
Straight off the bat, the film introduces us to the cast of playful characters. A group of college students are preparing for a weekend away on an island courtesy of Muffy, a cousin Skip, one of the boys.
On the ferry to the island, the kids create a ruckus. And by (seemingly) total accident, one of the ferry boat workers is injured when the boat’s motor crashes into him as he’s helping the ferry dock.
Unsettled by the mangling of the ferry worker, the kids try to salvage the most of their night. Thankfully Muffy is a wonderful hostess. She plays harmless pranks on them throughout the night and entertains them at dinner, including table settings complete with dolls that look like each of them.
But it’s April Fool’s weekend, and there’s bound to be trouble. The morning after the first night, the friends realise that Skip is missing. Even more, peppy Muffy has become noticeably more skittish and dowdy.
The friends try and settle in for the weekend as best as they can. It’s when couple Kit and Rob go to the boathouse together that they spot their friend’s corpse in the water.
After the discovery, the students soon realise that someone is playing a very serious trick on them. They quickly go down in number one-by-one. And it’s soon up to Rob and Kit to piece together the pieces of Muffy’s history.
Half of the fun of April Fool’s Day is the playfulness of the script and cast. Much of the dialogue actually attempts to round out each of the kids, making them weirdly likable despite being utter idiots for the most part.
There’s plenty of tricks and pranks here to round out the film. The constant sun-shiney-ness of the movie is also unusual but welcome. The night scenes are noticeably dark (both in light and tone), but scenes don’t shy away from the use of spring sunshine in moments of gore.
I know this is a bit of a classic, but this one has passed me by for ages, mostly because I thought I had already seen it. Blame it on getting it confused with both Slaughter High and Happy Birthday To Me. But I really enjoyed it. There were brilliant moments of gore and laugh-out-loud moments. Not really something you have with slashers (that are meant to be intentional, anyway).
April Fool’s Day reminded me of a funnier Harper’s Island but with more yuppies. It’s a unique slasher that I think will stay with me for a long time. No April Fool’s here.