There are reasons films skip theaters and are released directly to DVD. And while some decent films end up the poor stepchildren when film companies change hands, legitimately getting caught in a custody quagmire during the transition from one company to another, some languish endlessly on film studio shelves because they’re just plain bad. Worse, some studios cut their losses early when the powers-that-be realize they’ve got a bonafide turkey on their hands and skip right to our living rooms with their inferior product. April Fool’s Day falls squarely into the latter category.
Based on the 1986 slasher flick of the same name that seemingly endures despite its much-debated, love-it-or-hate-it ending, April Fool’s Day takes everything that made the original film work – a strong sense of setting, a believable camaraderie among the characters, an element of mystery, and a playfulness that never overshadowed the terror elements – and ditches it in favor of vapid cliché wrapped in a glossy, music video sheen. To say that the film has no substantive value as a work of horror would be kind, as this exercise in cinematic futility actually insults its intended viewers with its lifelessness.
Directed by Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores, wisely credited here under their ambiguous collective alter-ego “The Butcher Brothers,” show no understanding of the source material, which even diehards of the original film would admit had room for improvement. Instead, they opt for 91 minutes of excruciatingly bad dialogue and a convoluted mess of a plot that exists solely to showcase a seemingly intrinsic lack of aptitude for suspense and terror. It’s hard to figure out if the filmmakers were shooting for post-Scream satire or an old-school slasher here because the film I saw delivers neither. Chalk this up as a bonafide sophomore slump for the directors of the sorta-highly-acclaimed indie The Hamiltons, which won both the Santa Barbara and Malibu International Film Festivals and was selected for inclusion in After Dark Films’ inaugural HorrorFest as one of “8 Films to Die For” back in 2006.
In the agonizingly long prologue that overstays its welcome like an obnoxious dinner guest, a bunch of bluebloods with impossibly pretentious names like Blaine and Torrance and Milan gather on the titular holiday at the elegant, Dynasty-esque mansion of fellow snooty princess Desiree Cartier (Taylor Cole, who’s seriously channeling Tiffani-Amber Thiessen here) for an annual debutante ball reserved for only the uppermost-crust of North Carolina society. Convenient calendar designation not withstanding, Desiree’s got something of a penchant for pranks and practical jokes – and not those of the plastic dog doo-doo or whoopee cushion variety either, but rather the scandalous, reputation-ruining sex tape sort. Twenty-five minutes and one ill-advised roofie later, one of the interchangeable well-to-dos goes headfirst over a convenient balcony and the requisite revenge motive is established.
Flash forward (not forward enough, mind you) one year, and the well-to-dos receive an ominous summons (even the calligraphy font eschews all sense of dread!) to gather at the dead well-to-do’s gravesite. There they receive a package and a warning (allegedly from the dead well-to-do herself) that unless someone fesses up to the slipped roofie that caused her demise, the blood will start flowing like vintage champagne. And just so her fellow well-to-do’s know she means business from beyond the grave (or maybe because she knows we live in an age of crippling skepticism), the dead well-to-do includes a video of a Perez Hilton wannabe from their tawdry little group drowning in his swimming pool. Sadly, there is little blood flowing or a modicum of tension in what follows.
What does follow is a bland succession of “kills” that lead up to the penultimate reveals (plural – remember, these guys are clever) of who’s really behind the “carnage” and why – which is what you’ll be asking yourself as the credits finally start to roll. Stage 6, the company behind the distribution of this piece of unadulterated dreck, should be sued for fraud, advertising an “Unrated” edition of what boils down to a tame PG-13 level of gore and adult content. That longtime producer Frank Mancuso Jr. (who produced both the original April Fool’s Day as well as several films in the Friday the 13th franchise among others) would attach his name to this project shows that even legendary producers get hard up for cash sometimes.
Skip this uninspired slasher redux and watch the original, flaws intact, instead. Guaranteed it’ll be more fun creating a worthy remake in your own head than to sit through this.