Is April Fools Day actually a horror slasher - or is it a smart thriller masquerading as a cheap 80s slasher flick from genre producer Frank Mancuso Jr.? As a group of friends celebrating the prank-filled holiday steadily die off one by one, the film has the trappings of a horror film but is maybe too similar to an Agatha Christie mystery than what genre fans hoped for. Scream Factory celebrates this 80s gem with a true Collector's Edition featuring A great video transfer, decent audio, and some interesting new bonus features. Recommended.
Muffy (Deborah Forman) is throwing an April Fool's Day party for her friends Harvey (Jay Baker), Nikki (Deborah Goodrich), Rob (Ken Olandt), Skip (Griffin O'Neal), Nan (Leah Pinsent), Chaz (Clayton Rohner), Kit (Friday the 13th Part 2's Amy Steel), and Arch for spring break. What better place to have a party than an isolated island mansion? As soon as the friends assemble for what should have been a great time turns sour with the severe injury of the boatman. Just when things are about to go back to normal and the fun can begin - the murders start to happen!
As best as any one movie can, April Fool's Day lives up to its name. Like a bad gag at a fancy party, the film deftly weaves twists and turns into its plot. One moment you're sure you're watching a tried and true horror movie. The next you come to realize it's actually a mystery thriller in the vein of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. As each member of the party ends up murdered, we're given one more twist until the very end.
And it's those final twists that will either make April Fool's Day a new favorite - or completely ruin the show for you. I give credit to Friday the 13th franchise producer Frank Mancuso Jr. for not wanting to simply rehash every slasher genre convention with a different slate of attractive teens. Director Fred Walton and writer Danilo Bach craft an often suspenseful little show that has terrific narrative thrust with teasing mystery elements peppered throughout. It's engaging and the kills are creative - although relatively tame with less gore than one would expect for mid-1980s horror.
Without giving away the show, it's how April Foot's Day comes to a close that wins the battle or loses the war. Was this brilliant planning - or a cop-out? The first time I saw this was when I around five or six years old edited for television on Detroit's WXON TV20 "Thriller" horror movie double feature on a Saturday morning. I remember loving it, but my sister hating the twists. Over the last thirty years, I've regularly come back to this movie and depending on my mood, I love it - or roll my eyes at it. This time around I found myself appreciating the double play a bit more but the very final twist irksome. I have friends who love this and swear by it as flawless and I have friends who would love to forget they ever saw it. It's a come as you are horror/thriller where you'll have to make up your own mind. Even if it doesn't stick the landing, it's a fun show up to that point.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Scream Factory celebrates April Fool's Day with a single-disc Collector's Edition release. Pressed on a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy case with an identical cardboard slipcover. There's also alternative original poster artwork should
April Fool's Day looks better than I've ever seen it with a sparkling and often gorgeous 2.35:1 1080p transfer. Apparently this transfer was sourced from a slightly older 2K restoration effort but it's difficult to find any grievances. You really have to micro nitpick to find anything to complain about. Details are impressive giving you full view of facial features, the delightfully 80s costuming, the intricate set design and some of the creative kills and gore shots. Grain is stable throughout giving the image a nice three-dimensional film-like appearance. Black levels are strong, most scenes look great but there are a couple of moments where blacks are a bit thick and border on crush - but that's a handful of moments out of numerous dark scenes that look otherwise picture-perfect. After seeing this on TV and VHS for so long with only one or two DVD watch throughs, I'm very pleased with how this one came out on Blu-ray.
I wish I could say the same sparkly praise for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and the DTS-HD MA 2.0 tracks. Most of the time these mixes are fine but there are a few dialog exchanges where I kept having to ride the volume in order to hear what was being said. Other elements like scoring and sound effects are on point, it's just those few dialog bits that hold me up. Between the two I'd tip my hat to the 2.0 stereo mix as the better overall option. The 5.1 does offer up some more spacing and a decent enough surround presence, but the stereo mix feels a bit more even, the dialog softness not as severe. Both tracks get the job done, but I'm going with the stereo track as the winner of the day.
In true Scream Factory fashion, there are a bunch of great bonus features here. While an audio commentary would have been great, Fred Walton decided on a two-part interview that covers so much ground it's just as good as a commentary. The rest of the cast and crew interviews are great and offer nice production insights.
April Fool's Day may not be a perfect 80s slasher film - some may even argue that it's not a slasher film at all - but it's a fun piece of genre filmmaking. It may be too clever for its own good, especially by the time you're coming to the end. The cast is great, the staging is effective, there are some great kills, and the movie is overall quite a bit of entertainment.
Scream Factory gives April Fool's Day the Collector's Edition treatment it deserves offering a Blu-ray that sports a crisp video transfer, a pair of decent audio mixes to choose from, and a nice swath of bonus features to pick through. If you're a fan of the film it's easy to call this release of April Fool's Day Recommended.