Jokes That Kill – April Fool’s Day (1986)

Some films are unable to live up to their name, while others are able to do so quite easily and April Fool’s Day manages to be one of the latter, managing to surprise its audience when it is all said and done. The movie finds a group of friends and strangers come together, invited to spend a few days at the house of a common acquaintence located on an island. Coincidentally, it also happens to be April Fool’s Day and of course, being who they are, a number of the group play tricks upon each other before, during and after the trip. While it aims to be a fun weekend, it begins in tragedy as one of the party is severely injured and it gets worse from there as they start getting murdered, one by one.

Not being the typical slasher that dominated the decade, the movie manages to kill off most of its cast with little blood to be had and an unseen killer that is only revealed come the end of the film, though it is not too hard to guess as to just who it is doing the killing. There are all sorts of scares present – those that jump out, a little fear of the unknown, a bit of claustrophobia and more, and director Fred Walton aims to give the audience as much as possible without falling into the same tropes that many slashers of the day managed to do. There are a few clichés present, it is hard not to avoid them all, but they are few and far between and as such, the picture is actually quite refreshing to watch because of it. Also setting it apart is a bit of comedy that keeps things a little lively, the pranks played by the party members being somewhat funnier than anything else. Walton also infuses the movie with a lot of suspense and more than enough tension to keep his audience engaged and loving nearly every minute of it.

Making the film even better was the smart writing and the above-average acting, two things one never expects to see in a film of this sort. Deborah Foreman, Deborah Goodrich, Ken Olandt, Jar Barker and more might not have been top marquee names, but they still managed to give convincing performances that make it a joy to watch. Also starring would be Thomas F. Wilson, most famous for his role as Biff in Back to the Future and just another victim of the killer. Who would have thought that with a good script and a talented cast that the result would be a movie far better than one that would feature otherwise?

All of it builds up to and adds to a surprise ending that is rarely ever seen in a horror film of this sort. It comes right out of the blue and changes the whole tone of the picture that came before it, but it works exceptionally well and creates a very memorable picture. Overall, April Fool’s Day turned out to be a different kind of slasher and a good one at that.

3.5 out of 5

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