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Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Horror, Day 22: April Fool's Day

One of my favorite things about 80's horror films is their sense of humor. After the creature-features of the 50's, the thrillers of the 60's, and the axe murders of the 70's, the films of the 80's developed a newfound self-awareness that allowed them to be humorous while maintaining their scares. One of the best examples of this is April Fool's Day (1986).

April Fool's Day

From the very beginning, April Fool's Day takes its namesake to heart, playing pranks that neither that the characters nor the audience know are real. The setup of the film is very similar to other 80's horror flicks: a group of kids (in this case, entitled college students) are stranded in a remote location (an island) with a killer. In this case, the students are all total strangers who've come to celebrate mutual friend Muffy St. John's birthday. What begins as a series of playful April Fool's Day jokes starts to turn deadly as bodies begin to pile up.

But what makes April Fool's Day different is the element of the unknown. As every piece of violence occurs, we're left wondering whether what we saw actually happened or if it was really a prank. Is Muffy a mischievous hostess celebrating the holiday to the fullest, or is there a darker truth lurking on the island? Is this a traditional slasher, or is there something more at play?

**MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD**

The most controversial aspect of the film is that the deaths aren't real after all; Muffy is doing a trial run for a murder mystery weekend she'd like to host on the island. This eventuality is alluded to near the very beginning, as Nan notes that she knows Muffy from acting class. In a way, this could be seen as a cop out, the most obvious conclusion based upon the title. However, I feel that this is a conscious choice, a fun alternative to the senseless murders so popular during this time. After all, it doesn't make the deaths any less suspenseful or chilling if we find out much later that they aren't ultimately dead. While it's not the movie for everyone, I appreciate the point of difference it creates in a sea of very similar films.

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