Ah, April the First; the pseudo-holiday that entire internet sites were made for! Who hasn’t enjoyed pulling a fast one on a friend or family member on this day in years past? You’d think it’d be expected, but for some reason, we all have a tendency to forget about this little not-so-red-letter day until we’ve been had…and then, of course, it becomes our ambition to pay it forward (heh-heh). Second-tier holiday though it is, like it’s more mainstream brethren Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day (not to mention a couple of it’s lesser known siblings like President’s Day), the dubiously-honored date of April Fool’s Day has not been passed over by our favorite genre.
Back in 1986, during the heyday of slasherdom (and what some consider the Silver Age of Horror), a pretty ingenious little flick made its way across our theater screens just before the tolling of April 1st; the painfully obvious April Fool’s Day.
A group of college friends, nearing the end of their years of higher education, all gather to spend a weekend together in the island summer home of one of their wealthier friends, Muffy (yes, Muffy).
On the boat trip out to the island, an April Fool’s prank results in the deckhand having a horrible accident, and although there is realistically no blame placed on the group, they nonetheless feel some responsibility. Upon arriving at Muffy’s incredible manse, the friends sit down to a lovely dinner, where amid further good-natured pranking they all plan to spend a lovely weekend together as their time as students comes to a close. However, there’s someone on the island (a friend of the injured deckhand, perhaps?) who’s not interested in the celebration of friendship, and the friends begin to be systematically slaughtered, one by one.
Three of the crew meet grisly ends before the rest discover what’s amiss, but by this time they realize they’re trapped here on the island, unable to find help or safety except by staying together until the local constable makes his way via speedboat, sometime in the morning…in the meantime, the remaining friends have several questions to answer: who’s hiding in the attic? What’s up with the strange scenes played out with bloody dolls? And why the hell is Muffy acting so damned weird? Along with we the audience, the few survivors find out by the ending that nothing is what it seems…
Much like the holiday itself, this little contribution to our beloved genre is often forgotten, and that’s a shame. On the surface, the film resembles every other contemporary slasher of the era; familiar characters, similar shot set-ups, and the off-the-rack plot. However, this one distinguishes itself a couple of ways: Firstly, the far better-than-average performances on the part of the cast (faces that many of which had either already become familiar to audiences of the time, or would very soon) play a big part in elevating this effort from the typical fare of the day.
Valley Girl‘s Deborah Foreman, as Muffy, plays a very multi-faceted role; look closely at Arch, and you Fellow Fans will recognize a much more likeable (though no less fun) version of Biff from the Back To The Future films, well-played by Thomas F. Wilson. Also lending their talents were either current or future horror film staples Ken Olandt (Leprechaun), Clayton Rohner (I, Madman), and Amy Steel (Friday The 13th, Part II). There’s not a lot of gore; as with the majority of the second wave of slashers, there are a few severed body parts and blood-spattered set pieces (even an hint at an emasculation), but most of the action takes place just off-camera; however, this fits in with the context of the film, and isn’t the total downer it sounds like it would be.
Now, where April Fool’s Day really shines is with a pretty damned impressive plot twist that I’m not going to spoil, regardless of the fact that most of you Fellow Fans out there probably already know it. For the newer generation that may be reading this, I want it to hit you like it hit me back in the day: like a ton of bricks.
When it comes, you’ll sit there gawking, looking like you’ve just been shown a rattlesnake playing the harpsichord. I have to tip my hat to the filmmakers on that note; it was a brilliantly set up and executed twist, even by today’s standards, and it elevated a run-of-the-mill slasher into something more.
So, this April Fool’s Day, I’ll recommend this flick to you, dear friends, with the humble promise that this isn’t a prank of my own. Though I enjoy a good snafu as much as anyone, in the case of our beloved horror films, I’m not gonna deliberately steer ya wrong.
Enjoy the day, folks…and the flick, if ya get the chance.
Two cents lighter.
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