I'm telling you now- this little post is gonna be all full up with all ten kinds of SPOILERS, so if you haven't seen this movie yet (if you haven't, well, why haven't you?)- turn back. Turn back before it's too late! Turn back before the spoilers cast their evil gaze upon you, turning you to stone in a flash! Turn back, I tells ya! AAAAIIIIIIEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
Err, sorry. Look, it's Friday and I just watched one of my favorite movies and I went a little crazy with the font for a second. I'm better now.
It's spring break time, and a group of college kids head to the island vacation home of their friend Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman) for a little fun, college kid-style. Being around April 1st, the pranks begin almost immediately on the ferry ride to the island. Unfortunately, one of the jokes goes awry and poor deckhand Buck ends up smooshed between the boat and the pilings. Grody. Not a good way to start a vacation.
The jokes continue later on however as Muffy has rigged her house with all sorts of gags: there's collapsing chairs, dribble glasses, sinks that spray water in the face of the user, and so on. In each guest room, there's also a "joke" that serves as a reminder of the guest's dark secret or painful past: S&M gear, drug paraphernalia, newspaper clippings about fatal car accidents, and a reminder of an abortion. Ha ha haa! Whee! April Fool's, everybody!
The 'jokes' set everyone on edge, and soon enough the guests begin to disappear. Meanwhile, Muffy starts acting as if she's stopped taking her meds. She stares off into space, she laughs to herself, she's unkempt, and, as Nikki (Deborah Goodrich) notes, she's suddenly wearing shoes with crepe soles! What the hell has gotten into Muffy?
Once the dead bodies are discovered, the kids phone the constable on the mainland. He sets out for the island with a warning: stay away from Muffy. The warning coupled with Muffy's odd behavior lead everyone to believe that she's the killer...that is, until Rob (Ken Olandt) and Kit (Amy Steel) discover that Muffy has a twin sister Buffy who's been locked away in the nuthouse for three years. Buffy's back, though, and look out: she's nuts, she's wearing crepe soles, and she's killing everyone on the island!
Eventually, Rob and Kit are the only two people left alive. Just when you think Buffy is about to finish them off, Kit opens a door onto quite a scene: there's everyone that was thought dead, very much alive. Even Buck is there, decidedly unsmooshed. And there is no Buffy; plain ol' Muffy was hamming it up. That's right, it's all one big joke! April Fool's! It was all a test run for Muffy's grand scheme: to turn the estate into a bed and breakfast where guests can participate in a "murder mystery weekend". Good show, Muffy. Everyone drinks champagne and has fun with the prosthetic "dead bodies", the end.
April Fool's Day is a great flick that was doomed by bad word-of-mouth. The film started out strong at the box office, but quickly dropped from the radar after audiences found out about the twist ending. I find it odd that it wasn't well-received, but man, horror audiences are weird: they seem to want to be fed the same thing over and over, but then they complain about being fed the same thing over and over. In 1986, the year of the film's release, the slasher flick was on its last legs, the heyday long over. Audiences were getting bored as the second Nightmare on Elm Street and the fifth Friday the 13th movies hit the screen. The sub-genre would soon lapse into a parody of itself and be run into the ground until the release of Scream in 1996. Along comes April Fool's Day with a great cast, great acting, and a smart script that plays by all the slasher rules only to thumb its nose at you in the end. Better yet, the film wasn't thumbing its nose in the postmodern, post-Scream "it's just a stupid movie so why take it seriously anyway" fashion of the last 10 years. April Fool's Day plays it straight until the end, and the joke's on you, audience! I guess people don't like that. Or it matters somehow that the characters really die if you're going to enjoy a horror flick. The champagne celebration was not originally going to end the film; it was only going to end Act II. In the intended Act III, Muffy's friends left the island but then returned to give her a taste of her own medicine. Under the ruse of the practical joke, however, Muffy's brother Skip ends up killing her to garner her inheritance. I've read conflicting stories as to whether or not the ending was actually filmed, so the footage could be out there or it could just be words on a page.
What elevates April Fool's Day into the realm of the "I Heart..." series is the acting. Across the board, the performances are fantastic. Somehow, all of these privileged, unlikable kids become likable- and that's all because of the acting. You all should know by now that Amy Steel is one of my favorites and yeah, I'm glad she's here. Make no mistake about it, though- this movie belongs to Deborah Foreman.
I love love LOVE her performance as both Muffy and Buffy. Love. LOVE. Seriously. She's by turns sweet, kind, sexy, and really, really fucking creepy. Her Muffy is jittery, off-kilter, and somehow out of synch with everything around her. Even when she's not supposed to be weirdo Muffy, even when she's just completely normal, there's something there that's not quite right. Not quite right, but very intriguing. What I love the most is the fucked-up inflections Foreman uses for her line readings when she's weirdo Muffy, before 'Buffy' is discovered. It's hard to convey it here, exactly, but for example- when Kit tells Muffy that the constable should be arriving very soon, Muffy stares at her a moment, then replies with a solemn facial expression:
Sometimes- with the tides- it takes somebody all night to get here from the mainland. Andeventhensometimes----they don't make it.Then she turns around and walks out of the room quickly, and it's totally creepy and totally brill, my friends. Totally brill. Deborah Foreman rocks, and she rocks hard.
So that's it- I heart April Fool's Day. And if my word isn't enough to get you on board with it, well, then, I'll leave it up to Mr. T. T? What say you?
"I pity the fools who don't like April Fool's Day! Every day is April Fool's Day for them fools!"
Thanks, T. I owe you one. Mad props.