April Fool’s Day (1986)
Dir. Fred Walton
Written by Danilo Bach
Starring Deborah Foreman, Griffin O’Neal, Thomas F. Wilson, Ken Olandt, Amy Steel
Deep in the bowels of the 1980s, what must be dozens of identical white preppies arrive at the East Coast Island mansion of one of their friends, who is literally named Muffy St. John, for April Fool’s day. One of them is Biff from BACK TO THE FUTURE, the rest are all named Chaz. They’re all dealing with problems so punishingly whitebread that their very existence prompted Pat Buchanan to join the Nation of Islam.
These crackers are ridiculous, but I must say that I actually underestimated this one. I was expecting a dull, gimmicky run-of-the-mill slasher but ended up with a endearingly twisty, engagingly written 10-Little-Indians whodunit. Although I admit that it could actually benefit from a few more colorful kills, there’s an earnest desire to entertain here nicely complimented by a breezy pace and and a competently assembled screenplay. Not that it’s brilliant or anything, but it shows every sign of having had a human being actually write it and then read through it again to edit it, which honestly is a lot more than you can say about a lot of its ilk.
After so many horror casts of interchangeable cannon fodder, it’s nice that this screenplay (by BEVERLY HILLS COP scribe Danilo Bach) focuses some time on at least giving every character a scene or two to define himself or herself. They’re all the broadest possible sketches, of course, but in a movie like this that’s all you need to help keep these Stepford yuppie young Republicans from blending into one neverending chain of blond crew cuts and khaki capris. Special love goes to Muffy herself, Deborah Foreman, who Nic Cage taught to be a punk rocker in VALLEY GIRL and who here commits herself with valor to being a total weirdo.
|This room has so much whiteness it looks like a Ozu set.|
Some may take issue with the long wait before the murders start (at the halfway point you’ve only seen one disembodied eyeball!) but personally, I actually found the whole thing pretty fun in a naive 80s teen comedy sort of way. Much of the opening is intentionally comic, and the direction is deft enough that the comedy actually works to provide an adequate diversion while the murders crank up. None of it is particularly remarkable, but in its own minor way it has a level of effort and a hit-to-miss ratio higher than you’d expect for something like this. For a Reagan-era slasher starring a bunch of honkies that would make John Hughes look like Spike Lee, there’s a surprising amount of charm here.
PS: The omnidirectional preppie bromance going on for most of the first half of the movie is so intense that for a good while I didn’t get that they were joking with all the mano a mano kissing and groping and so forth, and just assumed that this was an unusually progressive early gay cadre movie. I’m not sure if that counts as progress or not, but boy, was the 80’s the gayest homophobic decade in history or what?