Sony // 2008 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge John Floyd (Retired) // March 25th, 2008
"She has a killer party planned!"
The only time I could say anything positive about this movie is on April 1st.
In the Butcher Brothers' direct-to-video remake of April Fool's Day, a snotty rich girl (Taylor Cole) plans a vindictive prank on a socialite rival (Sabrina Aldridge) at a debutante ball. The joke goes horribly wrong, though, when its target has an allergic reaction to a "date rape" drug she has been given and falls off a balcony to her death. No one will admit to slipping her the "roofie," and everyone escapes criminal prosecution. A year later, the partygoers all receive invitations to the victim's gravesite, where they are warned in an anonymous letter that they will all die if no one comes forward to take responsibility for the murder.
I won't even waste time making a comparison between the original April Fool's Day and this tepid, insipid, poorly-constructed, and exceedingly thrifty remake. There is none. The 1986 minor cult classic was a clever twist on the slasher formula. While the 2008 version could accurately be described with a few words beginning with the letter "s," "slasher" isn't one of them.
Instead, let's get right to the reasons why this movie is a bad joke all its own. To begin with, there is the generic DVD packaging, which closely resembles dozens of other post-Scream horror film posters and box covers. Unless overly airbrushed images of blandly pretty teens (shaded heavily so that their impossibly blue eyes pop out as though they were in cheap 3-D) give you a case of the shivers, there is nothing about the case for this disc that will suggest what you are about to see will thrill you in the least. For that, at least, the folks at Sony should be commended for truth in advertising. When a studio steals the "reflections in splintered glass" theme of the Urban Legend ads but relegates it to the back cover of the DVD, you know even the guys in the marketing department realize they are trying to polish a turd.
The decision to send this film straight to Blockbuster shelves and Netflix warehouses also speaks volumes about the distributor's thorough understanding of the product's quality. If cinematic catastrophes like the moronic remakes of Black Christmas and When A Stranger Calls can get big theatrical releases and draw even modest crowds in their opening weekends, how awful does a slice-and-dice retread have to be to have its invitation to the big dance revoked in favor of immediate banishment to home video? The answer is, obviously, this awful. Perhaps the ultimate display of Sony's confidence in the movie is the utter absence of any bonus materials. There are no commentary tracks, no "Making Of" featurettes, not even a trailer for the film. Sony dropped this film on video with (quite fittingly) all the ceremony of a dog doing its business on the rug -- "Here's the movie, folks. Please forgive us!"
"So, what is so terrible about April Fool's Day?" you may ask. You mean, aside from the fact that it's not a slasher film, or even a tongue-in-cheek parody of one (like the original)? Apart from its ridiculous plot, which is simultaneously thoroughly predictable and needlessly convoluted, and has been executed with more flair in everything from the anemic Cry Wolf to the "prank war" episodes of M*A*S*H? Other than the fact that it takes forever to get to the action and offers absolutely no suspense once it does? Beyond the fact that the scariest scene is a "movie-within-a-movie" sequence featuring Scout Taylor-Compton's actress character? Besides its made-for-cable production values, which make it look and feel more like a late night "Skinemax" flick (minus the obligatory pool table sex scene) or a direct-to-video sequel to Cruel Intentions than a horror film? Frankly, a lot.
The Butcher Brothers (who directed, and are two of the four writers credited) gathered a lot of attractive young people for this little exploitation movie, only to inexplicably decide to keep them all pretty much fully clothed throughout. Even a movie pretending to be a remake of an '80s fright film should feature at least a little gratuitous T&A to go with its explicit gore. Of course, this version of April Fool's Day also has virtually no blood, so it may have been wishful thinking on my part to expect a superfluous shower scene or some similar staple of the genre. We do see one girl in her underwear, though the view is primarily through a narrow door opening. We are treated to a scene in which one of the male characters has his throat slit, although no actual wound is ever visible through the modest flow of colored corn syrup. In short, the viewer doesn't see anything in this "Unrated" cut of the film that they can't see in a syndicated episode of Law & Order or a 15-year-old music video. From this effort, it's apparent that the Butcher Brothers are a lot like the hair metal band Slaughter -- it's just a surname. Don't let it fool you.
Everyone in the movie is a stereotype, from the vapid rich brats to the sensitive aspiring filmmaker, from the man-hungry gay guy to the dopey young Republican Senatorial candidate. Most of the actors do their best with the hackneyed material, though Taylor-Compton (who was quite good in Rob Zombie's Halloween remake) and Cole are grating, to say the least, in the film's climactic moments. I see a lot of soap opera and commercial work in the future for those cast members who don't understandably opt to go back to the Midwest and take over the family dry cleaning business once the reviews start rolling in.
There are two climactic "twists," both of which you will see coming a mile away and find completely uninteresting once they arrive. The filmmakers even miss an obvious opportunity to add a little spark to the closing shot. Perhaps they were absent from their community college Film Studies class on the day the instructor analyzed The Usual Suspects and Scream 2.
Charisma Carpenter look-alike Cole is certainly easy on the eyes. Slasher fans can only hope that if she takes on more horror films, she'll choose the R-rated variety.
April Fool's Day is a cruel joke on fans of the original film and contemporary horror audiences alike.
Guilty of impersonating a slasher movie and impersonating a remake. The
producers may think these kinds of shenanigans are funny, but this court is not
amused -- or frightened -- or even remotely entertained.
Review content copyright © 2008 John Floyd; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Verdict Review - 1986 version