Release Date(s)1986 (March 24, 2020)
Studio(s)Hometown Films/Paramount Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C
In the wake of Halloween and Friday the 13th, there were a plethora of slasher films released with a myriad of storylines, killers, and varying qualities—from the bottom of the barrel to the surprisingly respectable. By 1986, there wasn’t much more you could do with the genre without copying previous efforts, either intentionally or accidentally. Because of his association with Friday the 13th, producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. (along with director Fred Walton) decided to tackle another entry into the genre, but with a new twist on it. Lo and behold, April Fool’s Day was released to varying critical and audience reaction, but long-term fan appreciation.
On April Fool’s Day weekend, a group of college friends decide to get away from it all, making their way to their rich friend’s Muffy’s palatial mansion by the water. There they celebrate in style, complete with champagne and fine dining, but their idea of a good time is to pull pranks on each other for the entirety of the weekend. However, it seems that someone is taking the pranks too far when multiple bodies start piling up. The cast also includes Amy Steel, Deborah Foreman, Thomas F. Wilson, Deborah Goodrich, Clayton Rohner, Griffin O’Neal, and Leah Pinsent.
At the time, slasher films were known primarily for their use of violence, which was often over the top and gory, even after the MPAA had gotten its hands on them. In April Fool’s Day, the bloodletting is severely minor, but for good purpose. The surprise ending, which is a “love it” or “hate it” situation, allows the lack of carnage to make sense. The film also has a fine pedigree behind it since Frank Mancuso, Jr. had cut his teeth on several horror films up to that point, and director Fred Walton had helmed the successful When a Stranger Calls several years prior. However, both men wanted to make something that was different, thoroughly succeeding but not totally winning over audiences at the time.
Upon its initial release, April Fool’s Day did only minor business, but managed to garner a following on home video soon thereafter. Rumors of scenes that were cut from the final film, most notoriously additional endings, have circulated since the days of Fangoria and Gorezone. They have yet to be unearthed, but the film continues to be a favorite for like-minded horror fans.
Scream Factory brings April Fool’s Day to Blu-ray for the first time in the US in a new Collector’s Edition. It features an older master of the film, but despite its age, it’s a relatively strong presentation with a high encode. Grain levels are natural and refined with strong detail in both day and night scenes. The color palette offers a variety of hues that are often bold, including blues, reds, and greens. Skin tones appear natural as well. Blacks are deep with good detail, and brightness and contrast levels are ideal. It also appears stable and clean with no evidence of artificial sharpening or excessive noise removal. It’s a terrific presentation.
The audio is presented in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. Both tracks offer plenty of atmospherics, but the 5.1 sounds a bit more natural comparatively. Dialogue exchanges are clean and clear while sound effects have decent impact. Score and music are also given additional boost. There isn’t much power in the low end, but the track is clean and free of dropouts and distortion. As such, it’s relatively problem-free.
The following extras are also included:
- Horror with a Twist: Part I – Fred Walton on April Fool’s Day (HD – 23:58)
- Horror with a Twist: Part II – Fred Walton on April Fool’s Day (HD – 23:02)
- Well of Lies: Deborah Goodrich Royce on April Fool’s Day (HD – 16:32)
- Looking Forward to Dessert: Clayton Rohner on April Fool’s Day (HD – 17:15)
- Bloody Unforgettable: Composer Charles Bernstein on April Fool’s Day (HD – 26:00)
- The Eye of Deception: Charles Minksy on April Fool’s Day (HD – 17:23)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 1:42)
- TV Spots (SD – 3 in all – 1:35)
In the two-part interview with Fred Walton, he speaks about his upbringing, getting into filmmaking, shooting both The Sitter and When a Stranger Calls, his relationship with Frank Mancuso, Jr., and working with the film’s cast and crew. Deborah Goodrich Royce talks about how she got into acting, shooting soap operas, working with Fred Walton, getting hurt during the well scene, and a couple of deleted scenes, including the additional cut ending. Clayton Rohner pontificates on how he got into show business, building up his character in the film, and his memories of the alternate ending. Charles Bernstein also talks about his background, his process, working with Wes Craven, how he got involved with April Fool’s Day, and his work on it. Director of photography Charles Minksy speaks about learning to be a cameraman, his early work, being hired to shoot the film, and his approach to filming it. Rounding things out are a trailer and 3 TV spots.
Long overdue for a Blu-ray release, April Fool’s Day makes the leap to HD with a satisfying A/V presentation and above average bonus materials. It's not quite as stuffed as some of Scream Factory’s other Collector’s Editions, but it still offers a substantial upgrade over its DVD counterpart.
– Tim Salmons