Director – Fred Walton
Cast – Jay Baker, Pat Barlow, Lloyd Berry, Deborah Foreman, Deborah Goodrich, Tom Heaton, Mike Nomad, Ken Olandt, Griffin O’Neal, Leah Pinsent
Release Year – 1986
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I’d been passing this 80s slasher over for the last few months in favor of other films that caught my interest more, but my desire for a holiday-themed horror film lead me to finally giving a watch to April Fool’s Day and leaving the experience with borderline-positive enjoyment. Coming from director Fred Walton, who gave us the original When A Stranger Calls, I expected a bit more than I was given in this piece, but in the end April Fool’s Day is a crafty slasher that should have been better but nonetheless provides enough of the goods to warrant its ever-growing fan-base.
Nine college friends spending the April Fool’s Day weekend at a remote island house find themselves being killed off by an unseen killer.
I’ve always had a strong love for holiday-themed horror films, but I had never come across one that played on the April Fool’s holiday, making this a fairly original effort for the slasher sub-genre despite the rest of its storyline following the usual slasher template. Setting the film at an isolated island home was a great move that provided a nowhere-to-run scenario for the viewer, with an enjoyable element of “fun” provided by the partying coeds on a weekend full of pranks and gimmicks. It does not take long before the kills begin hitting the screen, however “hitting the screen” is a phrase I wish literally happened. My only balk at the the film, which is the reason it did not receive a higher rating, is that the kill sequences were sub-par and consisted primarily of kills occurring off-screen – only leaving us a peek of the aftereffect. I do not mind when a few of the kills in a horror film are executed in such a way, and sometimes find them enjoyable, but when every kill comes off in that format then I am left unsatisfied regarding the kills – and ever-important element of horror. I did enjoy the heavy mystery element resulting from the hidden identity of our killer, which sent our protagonists into frustration and slight social breakdown. (Possible pseudo-spoiler) The final sequence is one that I will not soon forget thanks to the awesome twist ending that I never saw coming, however it is one that I should have expected. You’ll see.
Director Fred Walton did a fair job with this piece, giving us good atmosphere and positive sets provided by great use of locations. The acting performances were better than expected for this type of film, and his execution of the kill scenes was passable despite the lack of seeing the actual kill. What I really enjoyed was a fantastic musical score that played very well into the atmosphere, showing that despite a lack of written kills it will take more than that to keep Fred Walton from delivering on his part.
Overall, April Fool’s Day is a mostly-enjoyable slasher that suffers due to mediocre kill sequences that should have been much better given Walton’s great direction, but the storyline held this one back greatly.