FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE...beware yon spoilers!

Mar 31, 2006

I Heart: April Fool's Day

Damn right, people...it's time for me to talk about one of my absolute favorite slasher movies...April Fool's Day. Note that I am not talking about it tomorrow, which actually IS April Fool's Day. This makes me 57% cooler than all the people who will be talking about it on April 1st.

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.

10 comments:

The Retropolitan said...

April Fool's Day is one of my absolute favorites ever ever ever! Remember when B-movies could still have GOOD acting in them? (And in this case, good music, too?) What's not to love about AFD -- it's got Clayton Rohner, Amy Steel, and the incredibly sexy Deborah Goodrich. Not to mention, my 1985 Girlfriend, Deborah Foreman.

*SIGH*

I happened to have just looked up Deborah Goodrich on the IMDB, and there's a post about what a cold woman she is. But what a voice!

The Retropolitan said...

And I never knew about the whole Act III thing. Weird.

B.A. Slattery said...

I'm about ten seconds away from Googling Amy Steel and getting her address. That woman needs a letter from me.

Dear Amy Steel,

What happened to you? Why aren't you in movies anymore? You broke my heart in Friday the 13th: Part 2 and I've never managed to fully recover.

Horror remakes are huge nowadays. You should talk to some peeps and see if they'll remake April Fool's Day with you in the lead. Who cares if you're 50 and greying? I just want to see your squirmy, nervous, sweat-drenched, fear-crippled face on the silver screen again.

I love you,
Brennon Slattery

Maybe you can co-sign the letter, Stacie. Amy deserves to hear our props.

Al K. Haul said...

April Fools Day is a movie that never disappoints. I think that they just really got this movie right & anyone who says they hate the ending is someone who just doesn't like to be surprised & is bitter & needs their horror spoon-fed to them. The story just makes all the right moves: setting, mood, structure & the acting like you said gives the characters life. Deborah Foreman was one of the quintissential 80s actresses. The repeating whistle in the music always gets me. Plus the Three Dog Night song at the end is probably the best use of a song in a movie ever. To sum up, this movie is so strong & every 6 months or a year I'll get fucked, pop it in, & it's like brand friggin new! How many movies can you say that about?
p.s. Just when Amy Steel broke my heart in Friday 2, she goes & shows up in AFD in a necktie! WOW, just wow.

Anonymous said...

Clayton Rohner. He makes me drool.

That's all I have to say.

Stacie, you are the pop culture queen. And it takes a lot for me to say that, because I USED to be the pop culture queen. Now I'm like a princess or something... not nearly as glamorous.

Amanda By Night

eillio said...

i love this film. i let my friend d.j. borrow my tape of it in '04. doesn't look like i'll ever see it again. i should buy the DVD for my birthday.
its too bad this film got rejected during its release. i thought the explanation of that was well put in the documentary "going to pieces: the rise and fall of the slasher film"(man, i've watched that doc lots)

DJ said...

I love April Fools Day - I remember watching it as a fourteen year old with one eye over my shoulder in case my mum should suddenly appear and make me switch it off!!

Nick said...

According to IMDB...

"Amy was going to star in the third installment of the Friday the 13th series reprising her role as 'Ginny' from Part 2 but her agent at the time told her not to sign on as she was getting "bigger and better roles"."

Dale said...

I saw this last night on TV, and yeah, my primary impression of the film was that the girl playing Muffy was fantastic. She basically had three different personas in the movie, Normal Muffy, Weird Muffy, and Psycho Buffy, and she totally nailed them all. I loved the fast, animalistic movement and body language as Buffy, and the tea scene that you mentioned, with that quote about the tides and the hand-twisting and the nervous "I'm sure they'll be okay. I'm not worried at all."

Thomas Duke said...

I too love this movie. When I initially saw it as a kid, when it first came to cable, I wasn't able to guess the ending (despite the title), so it actually totally worked on the suspense level. I think "Breakfast Club meets Ten Little Indians" is an apt description.

Also, the third act was filmed. There is a still from it on the back of the DVD case. It's also on the back of the laserdisc. Yes, I OWN APRIL FOOL's DAY ON LASERDISC! I don't have a player though. However, rest assured, if I ever pay for a hooker, we're gonna be snorting coke off of the disc together. I'll consider it a Deborah Foreman homage.