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APRIL FOOL'S DAY

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Deborah Foreman, Amy Steel, Ken Olandt, Thomas F. Wilson, Griffin O’Neal, Leah Pinsent, Deborah Goodrich, Clayton Rohner, Jay Baker, Mike Nomad
Director:  Fred Walton
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  None
Length:  88 Minutes
Release Date:  September 3, 2002

“Why don’t you tell us something about yourself?”

“Okay…I want to work with handicapped children.  And my parents are my best friends.  Oh, and I start convent school next semester.  And I f—k on the first date.”

Film ***

I still remember the first time I saw April Fool’s Day some 15 years ago.  I was amazed at the sheer audacity of its premise and the way it juggled moods deftly…almost irresponsibly…to the point where you were completely at its mercy, not knowing what it was going to do to you next!

Laughs led to screams, then back to laughs, then more screams, until the very unease itself became part of the movie experience.  Were we supposed to be finding it funny?  We were never sure if the director Fred Walton was a menace or merely a jokester who took things too far.

April Fool’s Day came about midway through the 80s, but never seemed to find its place in the decade that revitalized horror.  With its constantly shifting tones, it was possibly too hard to categorize.  After all, the horror “spoof” that we know so well today didn’t really exist then, and even so, this wasn’t a self-parodying horror film at all.  The movie made fun of our perceptions…not itself.

The simple plot has a group of college students getting together for a spring break weekend.  They don’t all know each other, but they are all connected in one way or another to their hostess, Muffy (Foreman, and no, I didn’t make that name up).  She has invited them all to her luxurious island summer home for her birthday (which happens to fall on April 1), for a couple of days of fun, friendship, and practical jokes.

But the holiday gets off to a bad start when a ferry accident leaves one of the party horribly injured.  As the remaining kids try to make the best of their weekend, something seems suspiciously wrong.  The suspicions are justified when one by one, members of the party start turning up dead.

What does it all mean and who is doing it?  I don’t want to give too much away, but as the clues are pieced together, it turns out there’s much more to Muffy than meets the eye.  She seems to know things about her guests that they’d rather keep secret.  And, as Steely Dan might say, “where DID she get those shoes?”

The film stays surprising, even if some of the twists seem a little deliberate.  Those who see it never seem to forget it, so I’d have to say it earns a little more respect than what history has given it.  A good cast of young actors let us experience the mayhem through their eyes.  We don’t know what to expect any more than they do, except that we know it’s bad when they do stupid things like splitting up when they’re supposed to stay together.  But I guess if they ever didn’t, there’d be no more horror films…

Video ***1/2

Impressive!  I’m pleased enough that Paramount decided to put this underappreciated gem onto DVD in the first place, but their anamorphic transfer ranks as one of the best I’ve seen for films from the 80s!  Colors are well rendered and natural looking, images are sharp and clear, detail level is strong, and no grain or compression mars the effects.  The print itself is quite clean, with only one or two brief instances of shimmering caused by apparent aging.  If every movie from that decade looked as good as this, DVD fans would have plenty to be happy about.

Audio ***

A 5.1 mix, no less!  Though the rear stage is mostly used for subtle music and ambience effects, and the subwoofer is used sparingly, the open sound of the audio is quite effective.  Dialogue sounds full instead of thin, and panning effects, when used, are done smoothly.  The film’s final two songs, which I won’t reveal here, are definitely unforgettable.

Features (zero stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

April Fool’s Day remains one of a kind, and one all fans of the genre should see at least once.  No joke.