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Dissecting April Fool's Day!

03.29.2016by: Jake Dee
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april fool's day, dissecting, dissecting april fool's day, horror, thriller, aith

APRIL FOOL'S DAY!

Well well our good friends, outside of Halloween, the biggest day of slick trickery elaborate tomfoolery is only a few days away. Yup, it's April Fool's Day! Love it, loathe it, the time is nigh. As such, we thought we'd try something a bit different this week with our Dissection article. Instead of breaking down director Fred Walton and his honorable genre career, we thought it'd be a lot of fun to revisit the popular 1986 slasher flick APRIL FOOL'S DAY, celebrating its 30th birthday this year (yesterday being the exact release date), and give it the same level of microscopic scrutiny our other dissection victims have. You know what that means, shite's gonna get awfully bloody up in here. Or is it!?

So do wise friends and join us in the diamond-laced anniversary milestone of APRIL FOOL'S DAY!

BEST WORK

Depending on your own sensibilities, the show-stopping finale of APRIL FOOL'S DAY is what's made the movie standout for a durable three decades. Now, I can see how some may think the ending - and therefore the movie - is tantamount to a 90 minute sack of masturbatory blue-balls...all stroke and no release. Speaking personally however, the fact I did not see the ending coming (no pun) the first time I saw the flick as a wee lad, the entire rug-pulling denouement struck me as far more of a landed punch than a softly pulled one. That is, I bought that sumbitch full tilt. That's no easy feat considering the trickery is right there in the film's title...hidden in plain sight, yet still effective in its conniving ruse.

Also, there's something unnervingly surreal about the final reveal itself. Once Kit (Amy Steel) feverishly evades her would be murderer and stumbles on the room of her friends, alive and well, there's a strange quietude to the scene that makes it seem almost as if she's projecting, hallucinating, purgatorially dreaming. The friends sit, play cards, drink, all the while remain silent, calm, disaffected in a way you wouldn't expect from a gaggle of pals pulling a prank. Even when Kit screams out for help, they delay, and for a split second it feels like she's in a f*cking Fellini film. I'll always remember this part of the prestige as being equally balance-tilting as the succeeding confession.

But hey, the choreographed practical joke couldn't not have gone off without a hitch if the death scenes weren't believably hatched to one degree or another. One of the great things about APRIL FOOL'S DAY is how it boasts a grisly death scene within the first 5 minutes or so...and a doozy at that. Once our group of besties unite at Muffy's mansion-side dock, one of our 9 potential victims suddenly submerges into the lake, disappears for a few hard ticks, only to reemerge with a face gorily gouged up and a protruding eyeball jutting at the screen. Who in their right mind would under-react to that and cast it off as mere hijinks. Nada. Hell of a way to kick off a theatrical weekend murder-mystery!

WORST WORK

The undoubted weak point of APRIL FOOL'S DAY is, ironically, one of the main things that allowed it to gain such notoriety: the dearth of gore. See, because of its neutered death scenes, the films lack of violence allowed the flick to repeatedly run on cable TV. This helped grow its massive following. But let's make no mistake, had there been the same level of unremitting gore of say a vintage 1981 slasher flick, the movie would easily rank higher among all time slasher joints. Then again, some might argue there's no way of faking such graphic violence in a way that still adheres to the overall charade. That the violence is alluded to actually backs up the notion of it all being one giant hoax. But we'd also like to note that this very lack of graphic violence is often mistaken for lampoon. This simply isn't true. APRIL FOOL'S DAY is not a spoof, not a parody, it's simply a 80s slasher spin on the age old Agatha Christie template...Ten Little Indians in specific. If you're as fond of murder-mystery whodunits as we are, you can appreciate the glaring difference. All that said, had the movie been made just two years earlier or so, before the Reagan-era MPAA castration came about, the movie's violent nature may have been upped to a more satisfactory quotient.

TRADEMARKS

Piling atop the trademark ending - which we all know is the films titular calling card - is the who's-who roster of 80s bit players partaking in the film. Damn I love this cast! First off, there's Amy Steel from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, here playing a similar damsel-in-distress final girl. Then there's Biff from BACK TO THE FUTURE (Thomas Wilson), playing a horny meat-head who gets to revel in one gnarlier fake death scenes. We have the prom-attending couple from the great JUST ONE OF THE GUYS - Clayton Rohner and Deborah Goodrich - here playing in total opposition to their roles in the aforementioned teen comedy. Rohner in particular is clearly having a blast a boozy, infantile cool kid diametrically opposed to the geeky Rick Morehouse. Not impressed? How about Ken Olandt as Rob, the narcoleptic dude from SUMMER SCHOOL who moonlighted as a male stripper? WAXWORK'S Deborah Foreman as Muffy the main prank-puller is also present, and together, APRIL FOOL'S DAY feels like a quintessential 80s slasher joint for all of us who grew up on 80s cinema in genreal...in genre or not. Add to this cast the directorial trademark of Fred Walton, who frequently uses the sound of a ticking clock to create a deep sense of tension and suspense.

HIDDEN GEMS

We know what you're thinking...how in the hell are there hidden gems buried within what's essentially a 90 minute diegetic scam? Well, here's how...

The ending of APRIL FOOL'S DAY isn't the one that was originally scripted. Oh no. The initial idea was conceived to be far more twisty and drawn out. See, after Buffy/Muffy reveals her grand prank and how all of her friends were complicit, the bulk of guests leave the island to return home. However, four of them remain - Rob, Chaz, Nikki and Kit - all of whom sneak back into Muffy's house in order to vengefully scare the ever loving piss out of her. Pretty cool idea on its own, but that isn't all. During their own scare tactic against Muffy, Skip suddenly snaps into a violent fit of rage and has it out for real blood...Muffy's! A scuffle ensues, Rob incapacitates Skip...killing him for real before he has chance to do the same to Muffy. How f*cked up is that?! The original ending - which was actually shot but never used - concluded on a much darker note...one that all but rendered the entire grand-prank all for naught. I'm not quite sure how if it all this ending would alter the overall impact of APRIL FOOL'S DAY, but damn does it change the equation dramatically. We can say with certainty though that the novelized version of the film, released the same year, followed this ending to a T.

But that ain't it for alternate endings. Word is another idea that made its way into a working draft of the script that would have seen Muffy get her just desserts. The ending in question went like this: As soon as Muffy says her goodbyes and is ostensibly left all alone on the island, Skip suddenly bursts out of a closet, accosts Muffy and slashes her throat. She screams in terror, only to find the rest of her friends - thought to be gone - all laughing together as they enter the room. They got her ass back good! I'm not sure if that ending was deemed to be too predictable after all we'd seen up until then, and therefore was scrapped, but I kind of like the idea of that version quite a bit. It still ends on a jocular upswing, doesn't take itself too seriously or severely sway the tone of the movie heretofore, and would have gone a lot farther in the way of genuinely caring for Muffy. As it is now, Muffy kind of comes off as a conniving opportunist...using her friends in a dry-run rehearsal of dramaturgical horror show.

OVERALL

It's easy to understand why APRIL FOOL'S DAY has been canonized in horror circles for the last 30 years. It's sleight of hand theatrics add not just a refreshing spin on the whodunit template, but it also turns the over-trampled slasher subgenre on its ear as well. It's easy to cast the flick off as a bloodless farce, a castrated spoof of a horror movie, but that's far too reductive and provincial a viewpoint in our opinions. APRIL FOOL'S DAY is at once a 80s college comedy, an Agatha Christie inspired murder mystery, as well as a bona fide post-HALLOWEEN slasher. And somehow, likely due to the deft hand of Fred Walton (WHEN A STRANGER CALLS), the tone of the film is light enough to play on late night TV, as well as singular enough to feel like one cohesive unit. Just as the so-called kills in the film itself, APRIL FOOL'S DAY is an easily overlooked horror trick of a treat. Happy April Fool's Day everybody!

GET APRIL FOOL'S DAY HERE

Extra Tidbit: What ranking would you give APRIL FOOL'S DAY?
Source: AITH

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10:45AM on 03/30/2016
It's actually a good movie. I did a double feature of this movie and Happy Birthday To Me one time. Great time.
It's actually a good movie. I did a double feature of this movie and Happy Birthday To Me one time. Great time.
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4:53PM on 03/29/2016

I love AFD.

Love this movie, always have. I forgive it its faults since I've loved it since it was released and have watched it countless times. I even read and still have the novelization, with the Skip goes nuts ending. And man oh man, Nikki is so fucking sexy.
Love this movie, always have. I forgive it its faults since I've loved it since it was released and have watched it countless times. I even read and still have the novelization, with the Skip goes nuts ending. And man oh man, Nikki is so fucking sexy.
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