[Happy 30th Birthday!] April Fool’s Day (1986)

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Director: Fred Walton

Cast: Deborah Foreman, Griffin O’Neal, Clayton Rohner, Jay Baker, Deborah Goodrich, Ken Olandt, Leah King Pinsent, Amy Steel, Thomas F. Wilson

Screenplay: Danilo Bach

89 mins. Rated R.

 

Of all the interesting holiday-themed horror films to spring up from the success of films like Halloween, April Fool’s Day is probably the most interesting idea. It’s a film idea that, even on the surface, shouldn’t work very well, but this film created its cult following from its smart plotting and playful attitude. It’s only a question of whether or not it holds up after three decades.

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Eight friends of the heiress Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman, Valley Girl, Lobster Men from Mars) gather for a weekend at her secluded island cabin to celebrate the last year of college. When secrets start to be uncovered from each of their pasts, a cold-blooded killer begins to do away with each of them in turn, but as April Fool’s Day is upon them, the gang can’t tell who’s pranking who, and who’s killing who.

April Fool’s Day may not be the most illustrious of horror films, but it is damn fun all the same. The campiness of pranks (though many involve murder strangely) combined with the horror aspects create a silly but altogether enjoyable film.

It helps to have genre favorites like Amy Steel (TV’s All My Children, Friday the 13th Part 2), Thomas F. Wilson (Back to the Future, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water) and Ken Olandt (Leprechaun, Power Play) involved as well.

Again, I should point out, this movie wasn’t going to win any awards, but as far as enjoyable film experiences, I just can’t really fault this one. Sure, the characters are mostly stiff and flat, but the dialogue keeps the tension and tone regular. Sure, director Fred Walton (When a Stranger Calls, The Stepford Husbands) isn’t a good director, but he nails it on this particular project.

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April Fool’s Day is a great film to show your friends. It is a great movie-night movie. It is a fun experience best shared with others. Having your group take guesses at just what’s going on is the most fun, and I think that’s what it’s all been about, right?

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Friday the 13th] Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

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Director: Steve Miner

Cast: Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Kirsten Baker, Stuart Charno, Marta Kober, Tom McBride, Bill Randolph, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Russell Todd

Screenplay: Ron Kurz

87 mins. Rated R.

 

Films like Friday the 13th don’t ever really get sequels. It is a horror film, so nothing is truly out of the question, but rarely does a sequel happen when the killer is [SPOILER ALERT] beheaded at the end. That didn’t happen for the Friday the 13th franchise, when a small tie at the end of the film involving Mrs. Voohees’ deceased son attacking a frail and fatigued Alice (Adrienne King, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming) led to the first sequel in this highly-successful horror franchise.

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It has been five long years since Alice survived that fateful Friday and now, the camp is to be opened again and a group of new men and women have gathered to learn the trade of the camp counselor. What is required of camp counselors? Drugs, sex, and death, obviously. Plain and simple. But who is killing these teens? Mrs. Voorhees is long dead, and no one has ever found the body of her son, Jason.

The problem with Friday the 13th Part 2 is the fact that it is essentially Friday the 13th all over again. The film provides very little in terms of really progressing the plot, other than the introduction of a new killer. Pulling off the killer switcheroo isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. Several other franchises have tried and failed to complete the change, but Friday is lucky enough to have completed this change very early in the franchise. This is a transitional period for the series and it happens to transition nicely, in part due to its simplicity.

The strengths of this sequel come from the colorful group of likable leads who provide slightly cookie-cutter characters though still enjoyable ones. Ginny (Amy Steel, TV’s All My Children, April Fool’s Day) and Paul (John Furey, The Galinez File, Flight 93) have a solid amount of chemistry if somewhat underused. It is interesting to note the level of danger who two leads carry in the film is less than sufficient, but is a stylistic choice popular to the 1970s and 80s. Director Steve Miner (Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, Day of the Dead) utilized the style of several Italian horror films to influence the rainbow of deaths in the film. I’m not one to discuss how interesting the death is in horror films. That was younger Kyle. I prefer to believe that the way the person dies bears little when compared to the emotions I feel for him or her. In that way, the ways our killer dispenses with them is disturbing with a sizable amount of cheese (not exactly a bad thing in this way).

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Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2 has enough potential to keep the series alive past what already seemed like a death knell. Likable characters in disturbing danger and an unknown assassin keep the tension high enough to enjoy this sequel all the through the 14th. Happy Holidays.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

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