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April Fools Day Main

April Fool's Day Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

April Fools Day Large

Directed by Fred Walton
Written by Danilo Bach
1986, 89 minutes, Rated R
Released on March 24th, 2020

Starring:
Deborah Foreman as Muffy
Amy Steel as Kit
Ken Olandt as Rob
Deborah Goodrich as Nikki
Clayton Rohner as Chaz
Leah King Pinsent as Nan
Thomas F. Wilson as Arch

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Review:

Muffy St. John invites a group of her college friends to her remote mansion for a weekend getaway. It’s April Fool’s Day and the trip is full of hijinks, including dribble glasses, trick chairs, exploding cigars and a fun gag involving bedroom light fixtures. There is something unsettling lurking just under the surface of all the levity, starting with a near-fatal accident aboard the ferry on the ride over. While unpacking in their respective rooms, the guests discover strange items in drawers and closets, including drug paraphernalia, S&M gear and curious newspaper clippings. Determined to have a good time, the friends take it all in stride, but the next morning Muffy seems out of sorts and is acting quite strangely. Making matters worse, someone on the island is taking the pranks too far and soon people start disappearing one by one.

A new era of horror was ushered in following the success of Halloween and Friday the 13th, leading to the wildly popular subgenre, the slasher film. The formula was simple: Assemble a group of likeable teenagers, isolate them, introduce an unknown, masked assailant into the mix and watch him kill them off systematically in increasingly gruesome fashion. The movies were typically set on a major holiday (My Bloody Valentine, Silent Night, Deadly Night) or at a summer camp (The Burning, Sleepaway Camp) or school function (Prom Night, Graduation Day).Most of these were low-budget productions that used creative and gory death scenes to gain recognition. Wildly popular with audiences, the slasher enjoyed a golden age of production from 1980 – 1984, with new titles regularly hitting theaters on a monthly basis.

April Fool’s Day came at the end of the craze and tries something new with the formula. Director Fred Walton (When a Stranger Calls Back) teamed with screenwriter Danilo Bach (Beverly Hills Cop) and executive producer Frank Mancuso Jr. (the Friday the 13th franchise) to deliver a horror picture that injects a healthy dose of humor and fun into the mix. The characters are better developed than in the typical offering and the kills primarily occur off-screen. The plot follows the familiar Agatha Christie Ten Little Indians template but turns the story on its head with a surprise ending that unfortunately divided audience and critic responses. If you are receptive to the twist, you are all but guaranteed a satisfying ride and a perennial favorite.

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Where this film really comes to life is in its performances. The ensemble cast headed by Deborah Foreman (Waxwork) share a great camaraderie that feels like a genuine celebration. As Muffy, Foreman is the perfect host, but once she starts acting all buggy, she adds an uneasiness to the mystery of what’s going on. The always-welcome Amy Steel (Friday the 13th Part 2) steps back into the role of Final Girl as Kit, a smart and resourceful woman up for a challenge. Most of her scenes are played opposite Ken Olandt (Summer School) as uber-serious Rob and the two work well together. Deborah Goodrich (Just One of the Guys) co-stars as Nikki, whose playful attitude is infectious. There is a nice moment with Goodrich, Steel and Forman taking a sex quiz from a magazine that is particularly entertaining. Other standout performers include Clayton Rohner (I, Madman) as Chaz, the laid back videographer looking to score with the ladies. Saving the best for last is accomplished scene-stealer Thomas F. Wilson (Back to the Future) as Arch, the source of much comic relief.

April Fool’s Day is a love letter to horror fans and gave the slasher a shot in the arm. Walton proves to be accomplished at delivering both chills and laughs and keeps things moving at a steady pace. All of the familiar tropes are on display, but the script is strong enough to keep things interesting. Though sadly still lost to time, one of the more intriguing elements to this picture is the long-sought after deleted scenes which add significantly to the final act and play more towards audience expectations. If you are open-minded and have never seen this movie before, it is definitely worth checking out, but if you are a genre purist who doesn’t like to mix things up, the joke’s on you because it’s actually a great little film.

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Video and Audio:

Presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio from an older 2K scan, picture quality is surprisingly strong. The beautiful widescreen image is filled with bright colors and rich detail that blows the old DVD transfer out of the water.

The DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track is a bit lacking in presentation, but fortunately there is also an expanded DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix that delivers the goods. Music and sound effects fill the room without stepping on dialogue levels which remain clear and understandable.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition series usually pulls out all the stops when it comes to extras, but April Fool’s Day comes up a bit short. We do get five newly-recorded interviews with members of the cast and crew – and they are most welcome - but sadly there are a lot of noticeable absences from the guest list.

Fred Walton sits down for the two-part interview Horror with a Twist that covers a lot of ground. Part 1 (24 minutes) begins with a look back at the director’s formative years and meeting his writing partner Steve Feke. He talks about making his short film The Sitter and later expanding it into the feature When a Stranger Calls and the tepid studio response. He also talks about the challenge of filming an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Part 2 (23 minutes) gets to the topic at hand and Walton shares his memories of making this film. Topics include working with producer Frank Mancuso Jr. and filming in Canada with an ensemble cast. He was drawn to the comedy in the script and encouraged his actors to improvise. He shares some production stories and how he avoided shooting graphic death scenes. He comments on the questionable marketing campaign and his decision to leave the industry. This is a fairly solid interview, but would have benefitted from some more in-depth discussion of the making of the film and its truncated finale.

Actress Deborah Goodrich Royce reflects on her career in Well of Lies (17 minutes), starting with her time as a dancer in New York and early success in commercials and soap operas. She briefly talks about her work on Just One of the Guys and the conversation finds its way to April Fool’s Day. She shares her memories of Walton as a director and details her experience shooting the well scene. Goodrich teases some information on the deleted material and extended ending and reshoots. She concludes with her thoughts on the film’s legacy and tells of a proposed sequel that failed to materialize.

In Looking Forward to Dessert (17 minutes), actor Clayton Rohner shares some biographical information and tells interesting stories about his father’s work in the industry. He continues with entertaining tales of Fred Walton and Frank Mancuso Jr. and shooting on location. From there he reflects on his character and bonding with the cast and briefly talks about the multiple endings.

Composer Charles Bernstein is interviewed in the segment Bloody Unforgettable (26 minutes) and begins with memories of his early career in documentaries before working on several scores for director Wes Craven. He discusses his approach to writing music for film and the challenge he faced nailing the tone of this picture. He talks about working closely with the director, producer and editor and concludes with the need to send audiences out on a light note with a catchy closing song.

In The Eye of Deception (17 minutes) cinematographer Charles Minsky reflects on getting into the industry, his film education and love of the work. He goes on to talk about his working relationship with Walton and the visual style of this picture, briefly detailing which cameras and lenses were used to capture the director’s vision.

The theatrical trailer is paired with three TV spots.

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Grades:

Movie: Fourstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fourstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Threestars
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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