[Disc Review] Scream Factory’s restoration of horror film ‘APRIL FOOL’S DAY’ is no joke

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

APRIL FOOL’S DAY (1986)

Rated R, 88 minutes.
Director: Fred Walton
Cast: Deborah Foreman, Ken Olandt, Amy Steel, Deborah Goodrich, Thomas F. Wilson, Jay Baker, Griffin O’Neal, Leah Pinsent, Clayton Rohner, Lloyd Berry and Tom Heaton
Available Tuesday on Blu-ray through Scream Factory.

As much as we wish everything that’s going on today were an April Fool’s Day joke, alas, here we are, trying not to lose our minds amid screaming kids and boredom. Fortunately, during all this time off, there are plenty of great Blu-rays set for release. You can spice up your quarantine with some classic spooks, insightful and mesmerizing experimental works, and even a little romance.

If you were a horror video browser back during the VHS days at Blockbuster, you might recall the cover art for this 1986 release.

On the cover, a group of hard-partying college students can be seen gathered around a table that looks plucked from Rory Gilmore’s grandparents’ house. At the front of the table is a young woman toasting to her friends with a knife prominently hidden behind her back and hair braided as if it were a noose. It’s arguably one of the most creative art pieces made for a horror movie, as it perfectly sums up the fun and twists that endure over the film’s 90-minute runtime.

Original ‘APRIL FOOL’S DAY’ poster (1986)

April Fool’s Day is receiving a collector’s edition treatment by Scream Factory. It comes with a sparkly film print, new interviews with filmmakers and actors, and a cardboard slipcover with newly commissioned illustration by Yannick Bouchard. Additionally, Scream Factory recognizes the importance of the original artwork because disc owners can reverse the artwork to spotlight the old design.

Directed by Fred Walton, the film is anything but ordinary. If you’ve seen Walton’s previous work, such as 1979’s When a Stranger Calls, one should anticipate a journey that continually throws you off the path. The story involves nine undergrads (including Amy Steel, Clayton Rohner and Back to the Future’s Thomas F. Wilson) staying at a friend’s remote island mansion. Slowly, they begin to fall victim to an unseen killer over the titular holiday weekend.

Horror loves to decorate holidays in blood and guts. This is because the holidays are times of the year when people come together so that a masked murderer can turn hopeless individuals into slaughtered works of art. The idea behind the holiday in April Fool’s Day is perfect for the genre. It’s about as genius as a terrorizer mowing down crowds in a haunted house theme park. No one knows what’s real and what’s part of the act. The characters in this film have a field day pulling off elaborate pranks, some of which fool you.

Newcomers may notice that some of the kills aren’t as inventive as they could have been, outside one disturbing act of violence that leaves someone’s eye pulled out of their socket. It certainly sets the tone. But it’s the relationships between the characters that matter most. If you can’t buy them as friends, then this is a throwaway dead teenager fest. Of course, the characters fill out obvious stereotypes, but even the movie has a blast poking fun at it. It’s not far off from the kind of sense of humor that’s in The Cabin in the Woods.

If you favor horror satires that deconstruct the mechanics of the genre, like Behind the Mask or Scream, this is the must-buy of the week.

Grade: B+

Extras: Available for preorder through shoutfactory.com/shop, the Scream Factory release comes loaded with interview content — maybe too much. This has become a problem lately with many of Scream Factory releases. The interviews with each subject run a tad too long and repetitive.

No offense to the hardworking talent, but we don’t need a beginning-to-end story of everyone’s career. Keep the material focused on the film at hand, or turn everything into one feature-length documentary. You have to be a big fan of the film to keep from dozing off during the special features.

  • NEW Horror With A Twist – an interview with Director Fred Walton
  • NEW Well Of Lies – an interview with actress Deborah Goodrich Royce
  • NEW Looking Forward To Dessert – an interview with actor Clayton Rohner
  • NEW Bloody Unforgettable – an interview with composer Charles Bernstein
  • NEW The Eye Of Deception – an interview with cinematographer Charles Minsky
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Original TV Spots
About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.