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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

April Fool's Day

Well, better late than never, I guess. Netflix, after sending me movies for my niece and nephews, movies to watch with Dad, and pretty much everything under the sun in my queue EXCEPT for my next slasher flick, finally decided to mail April Fool's Day to me. Not a remake, nor an unrelated slasher flick that shares the same name, but the actual 1986 horror-comedy. Alas, it's a DVD that has no extras, so I'll have to sum up the alternate ending after I finish watching. Ready? SPOILERS in 3....2....

All right, so AFD begins with some vacation videos, which is never entertaining. But it allows the movie to introduce us to the victims, uh I mean, characters. First up is an Irish-Catholic gal with the improbable name of Mary O'Reilly O'Toole O'Shea. Oh, bite me. Two seconds in, and I'm already starting to roll my eyes. The good news is that Mary nicely sums up the premise for us: Her friend Muffy just inherited an island with a mansion on it, and Muffy's invited her closest college friends to stay there during Spring Break.

She mentions "convent school"(is that actually the name for it? It doesn't sound right...), and mentions that she wants to work with "handicapped children". I'm going to pause the movie for a sec to go off on a rant...I hate the word "handicapped". See, it originated around the time of the Great Depression, referring to bums who would fake a disability, then hold out a cap for bystanders to put money into. A "handy cap" eventually became a "handicap". Nice. It's the disabled person's equivalent to being called the N-word...

Isn't learning fun, kids?

Anyway, Mary wants to work with disabled kids. Oh, and she reveals that she's a nymphomaniac named Nikki... Who's up next?

Ah, an alumni from the Friday the 13th franchise is up next. She plays Kit here, and her character in the Friday film she did get dressed up as Jason's mother at the end. So that one was, what, the second movie? The third one, maybe. I think it was the second one. Hey, gimme a break! I watch at least one of these a week! After awhile, they all start to blend together...

Well after all of that, Kit declines to say anything for the video. Next in line are Skip and Arch, the film's goofy comic relief characters. Arch, by the way, is portrayed by the same actor who played Biff in the Back to the Future films. Wow, so some of the cast are people who actually had movie careers. Nice. Skip is Muffy's cousin, and he seems to despise her side of the family because of their wealth. Let's keep an eye on him....Oh, and the guy behind the video camera is Chazz, a scruffy-looking slacker.

The movie briefly shifts the action to the island itself, where Muffy is hauling around some creepy props. An older woman named Clara is helping her, but looks concerned. Before Clara leaves to take a ferry to the mainland, Muffy says something rather ominous about the weekend with her friends being "bloody unforgettable".

After Clara departs, Muffy finds something from her disturbing childhood: a Jack-in-the-box toy. In a flashback, Muffy remembers the toy as a birthday gift. A sibling played a prank on her, by replacing Jack's head with a weird lizard-monster action figure head.

At the pier, we meet a few more characters. First up is Nan, a conservative student who is a more recent friend to Muffy. They met in the school's Drama department, which apparently is boring to Muffy's other friends. As a final brush-off, Arch picks up her luggage, makes a face, then drops the bags again. Kind of a dickish move, bro.

The ferry pulls in, and Chaz tells one of the dockworkers that his fly is open. When the guy checks, Chaz plants a loud kiss on him. Uhhhhh...all-righty, then. The captain of the ferry, a grizzled old man, urges them to hurry, because their group is the last one of the day. Kit tries to get him to wait a little longer for a few more people who are late, but he refuses. Luckily, the last couple of people drive up at that exact moment. They're Rob(Kit's boyfriend) and Harvey "Hal" Edison(he is in Muffy's Economics class). After the usual meet-and-greet, the ferry starts the journey to the Isle of Muff--which I do, by the way...

Skip lets his negative feelings bubble to the surface again, telling the others that if he wasn't geographically close, Muffy wouldn't have bothered to invite him on the weekend getaway. Bitter much? Chaz tries to pull the zipper prank on him, but Skip just tells him to "eat it". Then he pulls out a switchblade and challenges Arch to a game of "stretch", whatever that is. Oh, and Chaz gets a chuckle when he turns the camera on Rob, whose fly IS open.

Okay, so apparently "stretch" involves throwing a switchblade at the floor, then making your opponent "stretch" to grab it without falling. Sounds like a Redneck Olympic event. The captain of the ferry watches the "game" for a second or two, then turns his attention to Nikki, who appears to be undressing. Hubba, this chick is pretty attractive. A ferry-mate(that doesn't look or sound right, but I'll be damned if I can think of the correct term for him...) is watching the show, as is Hal, the preppy douchebag.

Hal decides to strike up a one-sided conversation with Nikki while she catches some rays in her bathing suit. His idea of an ice-breaker is to start making silly sex jokes about Muffy's name. Smooth, Don Juan. Chazz isn't having much better luck flirting with Nan. He pretends to sneeze on her, then mocks her when she attempts to tell him about the book that she's reading, Paradise Lost. He then shows her what he's been reading. I'll give you a hint: it rhymes with "shplornography". Then we get a montage of all of our couples boring each other to death with silly dialogue.

As the ferry pulls up to Muff Island *juvenile giggle*, Skip and Arch get into an argument about Stretch. Arch angrily informs Skip that he doesn't want to play anymore, then whips the knife at Skip. It lands in Skip's stomach, and he staggers backwards into the water. Nan's horrified scream gets the attention of the deckhand(HA! I thought of the word!), who dives into the cold water to rescue Skip. Then Rob jumps in as well. As they search under water for the body, Skip himself pops up, revealing that the switchblade was a fake.

As Skip and Arch celebrate their cleverness, Buck(the young deckhand) gets into trouble. He elects to moor the boat to the dock while in the water, because he was having trouble reaching the post from the deck of the ferry. As Buck continues to miss roping his target, he also misses seeing how close the ferry is getting to him. Oh, and the sheriff just happens to be nearby, in another, smaller boat.

Faster than you can say "massive head trauma", Buck gets dragged under the ferry, and becomes Harvey Dent, losing half of his face. The sheriff's boat pulls up, and a thrashing, screaming Buck is last seen speeding away toward the mainland, screaming "They did it! They did it!"

At that same instant, Muffy arrives to greet her guests. The sheriff watches the ferryman disappear in the distance, then asks Muffy if he can borrow her boat to get back to the mainland himself. Before he fetches the keys, he warns the group to stay on the island, in case he needs to question them or press charges. On the way to the mansion, Skip bitterly tells Rob and Kit that nothing bad ever happens to Muffy. Not true, showed up!

In the entry hall, Muffy tells the group that the property won't belong to her until she turns 21. The invitees waste no time settling in, making cracks about Muffy's money, her decorating style, and so on. Nice friends.

In the kitchen, the girls prepare hot dogs, and take a sex quiz. Arch and Chazz decide to film the garden, while mocking Nikki. Hal finds a library or study, and wastes no time stealing cigars from a nearby desk.

As night falls, a very drunk Skip again whines that being poor sucks.Nan tries to talk him down from his depression, but he just sinks deeper. Inside, the rest of the group get the dining room ready for dinner. As everyone takes a seat, Nan discovers that her seat has a whoopie cushion on it, and everyone cracks up. Arch then leans back, and the legs of his chair collapse, sending him rolling onto the floor. As the group laughs even harder, Skip remains outside, drinking and howling.

Inside, Muffy's friends speculate about Buck's condition, then they talk about what they'll all be doing after graduation(short answer: not much.). Muffy makes a toast to her friends, and everyone finds that their glasses are dribble-glasses, another prank. Yay.

After the meal, Hal lights one of he cigars, and starts to rehearse the best way to ask Muffy for money. In the bedrrom next door, Arch and Chazz discover some S&M gear, and start playing with it. Hal discovers several newspaper clippings about mysterious accidents and tragedies on the island, and Chazz walks in on him reading one. After Chazz leaves, the cigar in Hal's mouth explodes.

Arch starts putting stuff away in the bathroom, and finds a buttload of drug paraphenalia in his medicine cabinet. As Nikki discovers more kinky gear, Arch pulls the doorknob off of his bedroom door, effectively trapping himself in the room. Oh, and Kit and Rob find a painting in their room has eyes that move. They remove the picture from the wall, and discover a cat-clock underneath, which explains the moving eyes. Rob puts the painting in the hall, and swiftly closes the door. In Nan's room, she hears a baby crying. It turns out to be a tape recorder playing the sound, but she looks pretty upset. Muffy is briefly seen downstairs, turning out lights and getting ready for bed.

Rob and Kit get undressed for bed, and Kit turns out to have a very curvaceous figure. Rob is angry because it turns out that his plans after college have blown up in his face, and he doesn't know what to do about it. He shuts off the light by the bed, and a lamp across the room turns on. Turning off that light turns a third one on, and so on. While Kit giggles, Rob finally resorts to unscrewing the lightbulb in the lamp by the bed, and they go to sleep.

Arch tries to seduce Muffy in the hallway and fails, then tries opening random bedroom doors. He hears moaning behind one, finds the second one either stuck or locked, then walks into the third one and sees Chazz and Nikki screwing like bunnies. He eventually settles for reading porn. I swear, this movie has a 1-track mind.

Skip is still outside and still drunk, staggering around the dock. He finds a plant that he believes to be marijuana, and uses his knife to cut off a few leaves. He heads toward the boathouse, happily sniffing at his new treasure. Okay, so the movie has a 2-track mind. I stand corrected.

In the dark boathouse, Skip does the typical slasher "Hello? Anyone in here?" routine, so his fate is pretty much sealed. Another slasher film cliche, a cat, leaps onto Skip's face from out of nowhere. (Incidentally, I saw the film Horrible Bosses this weekend, and it featured a really funny running gag about this...go see it, the movie's funny as Hell) Skip recovers from his fright, flicks open a lighter, then is snatched into the darkness by an unseen assailant. Bye, Skip.

The following morning, Hal gets a quick peek at Nikki with her shirt open. Muffy is found in the kitchen looking like she had a fight with a rabid squirrel, and she flees upstairs to get dressed. Right away, Arch notices that Skip is missing, but no one else seems concerned. As the others horse around with a soccer ball on the lawn, Nan opts to watch from the porch. I guess she's still upset by the tape recorder she found.

Nan spots Muffy heading toward a small house(looks like it was built for children to play in), and decides to confront her. The movie then decides to follow Kit and Rob instead. Geez, if I jingle my keys, d'ya think the camera crew will start filming me?

Kit and Rob enter the boathouse, and start to make out. As Rob gets Kit to the floor, Kit turns her head and sees Skip's corpse float by, underneath the boathouse. Rob runs outside and starts to yell at Skip, assuming that it's yet another prank. Here's my question: How would the killer know exactly when to release the body, if Rob and Kit spontaneously decided on that specific spot for their romantic private time? And if the killer didn't position the body to float by at that exact moment, what are the odds that a body that was killed ther previous evening would just remain in that area until someone happened upon that exact spot at that exact time???

So, Rob and Kit get back to the mansion, and tell the others about what they saw. When, as a group they realize that Skip hasn't been seen by anyone since last night, they conduct a search of the island. Chazz almost immediately finds the switchblade, which is broken, and shows it to Rob and Arch. They come up with the idea that Buck may have done something to Skip, out of a desire for revenge.

Back in the kitchen, Muffy has a run-in with Nan. Nan tearfully confronts Muffy about the tape, and Muffy denies any knowledge of it. From a stairway nearby, Hal hears the entire conversation.

Arch has somehow wandered into the woods by himself. He doesn't realize it yet, but a pretty aggressive-looking snake is lingering near his feet, waiting to pounce. As he moves around slowly, Arch steps into a trap, and is yanked off of his feet. While he swings around upside-down, the snake raises itself up to strike. Then a mystery figure walks up to Arch, kicks the snake away, and Arch suddenly looks very afraid.

Nan has also wandered off by herself, and found a stone bench to sit on. She starts crying again, and a strong wind comes out of nowhere. Hey, maybe Nan's like Carrie, and can summon, um, air to, uh....I'm just going to shut up now. Sorry.

As the searchers compare notes, they realize that Arch is now also missing. Kit and Nikki decide that it's time to call the police, and a spaced-out Muffy gives them the sheriff's extension. Unfortunately, the phones on the island seem to be malfunctioning. Surprise, surprise.

Muffy is fixated on making tea, and brings Kit every flavor she could find. Kit busies herself with the tea. hoping to snap Muffy out of her weird phase, and discovers that there's a problem with the water not flowing through the pipes. Muffy explains that when the pipes aren't working, they use a well on the property.

Hal and Nikki go off to look for the well, and find it soon enough. Hal tries to flirt with Nikki again, but she blocks him every time. He gets so flustered that he loses the water bucket. Nikki has a flashlight, but that also ends up falling into the well. When she notices small metal rungs on the interior wall of the well, Mary suggests that Hal should climb down to retrieve their stuff. After a short debate, Hal turns out to be a wimp, so Mary climbs into the well.

After descending several rungs, Nikki slips. She regains her balance before falling, but then the rung snaps off in her hand, and Nikki drops into the water. Hal starts freaking out and calling her name, but she seems fine...until Arch's severed head bobs up next to her in the water. Hal tries to rescue her by climbing into the well with Nikki, who finds another body, a female. Hmmm, I don't remember any of the women disappearing yet. Strange...

So, where was I? Oh yeah, so Nikki and Hal are now in the well. Hal reaches toward Nikki, and she grabs his hand, but then the movie goes abruptly back to the mansion. Hal and Nikki were magically transported inside, where Kit tries to convince Nikki that it's safe because they're inside the house. Oh, and Muffy freaks out Nan by bringing her a glass of water. When Muffy is asked where the guns are stored, she replies that there aren't any. Great. Maybe they can defeat the killer with joy buzzers and whoopie cushions!

The phone starts working again, and it's the cops! Rob tells the Constable(sorry, I thought earlier that they called him "Sheriff") about the dead bodies, and I guess the female one was Nan. Over the phone, Rob is informed that Buck is still hospitalized, and then says something about Muffy. Rob hangs up, and plays dumb. He tells them that the police will arrive in the morning, and that they should all stay together until he arrives. That leads into the Lock Every Door and Window Montage. This movie has more filler than the meat at Taco Bell.

In the study, Kit finds a picture of 2 children who seem to be twins. Muffy enters the room quietly, and creeps her out with a thousand-yard stare. As Kit discreetly returns the photo to its place on the table, Muffy tells her that people seem to get lost at sea on a pretty regular basis. After that, there's a brief moment where we see Hal removing a gun from his luggage. Hmmm....

Everyone except Rob and Muffy decide to wait in the living room. While sitting around, Nikki suddenly wonders out loud why Muffy is always wearing the kind of shoes a nurse would wear. Then Hal mentions the argument between Muffy and Nan.

That leads into a new discussion, where they each talk about the strange items they've been finding in their bedrooms. After Hal tells them about Nan finding items implying that she had an abortion, Nikki shows the group the kinky sex gear that was in her room. Chazz lies and says that he found nothing. Then Hal admits that he found newspaper clippings about car accidents in his room--but he also denies that it means anything to him.

As they all start to get angry with each other, Kit reminds them that Muffy is a close friend. Muffy walks in, glares at them, and announces that she's going up to her room. After she leaves, everyone else more or less agrees to do the same, figuring that they'll be safe as long as they stay put in their rooms. When only Hal, Kit and Rob remain, Rob says that he plans to find a way into the attic, to watch for the constable. Hal promises to watch the stairs.

When Muffy gets to her room, she sits on her bed and begins wringing her hands. Hal, true to his word, climbs about a third of the way up the staircase, then sits down to begin his guard duty. Chazz tries to sweet-talk Nikki into staying in his room, but she's packing her belongings at a furious pace. Her plan is to walk down to the pier and wait there for rescue, but Chazz hates the idea of her being out there alone. He resorts to donning different S&M masks to lighten the mood, and it actually does make Nikki smile and giggle. She still walks out of the room, leaving Chazz mumbling on the bed in the mask.

Hal looks up when Nikki walks by, then goes back to reading a newspaper. When Nikki walks back into the bedroom to get more stuff, she finds Chazz not moving, holding his hands over his crotch. As she makes fun of him, Chazz continues to stay in that position, so Nikki tries slapping his arm. That causes his hand to move, revealing a large bloodstain on his crotch. Ow!

As Nikki slowly backs away from the body, the closet door opens behind her. She sees the killer emerge, then the screen goes black briefly. Let me guess: we'll see her body later, instead of getting to see the actual murder.

Kit and Rob are pulling a "Scooby Doo", investigating the mansion, room by room, to turn up clues. In the dark, dusty attic Rob finally tells Kit about his phone conversation with the Constable. He was told to keep everyone together, and not to let them go off by themselves, or go anywhere with Muffy alone...

As the attic search continues, Kit sees something weird. It's the display of dolls from the dinner table, except that the "dead" ones are now in a pile away from the rest. Before they can do any more investigating, Rob hears the Constable's boat arrive. They leave the attic to round up the rest of the group.

Kit finds Nikki's door locked, so she goes to Hal's room next. The door shuts behind her, and the knob does the falling-off trick again, so Kit creeps around in the dark until she finds another door. On the other side, she meets up with Rob again.

After they compare notes and realize that everyone else has vanished, Rob decides to enter Nikki's room. Kit tells him that the door is locked up tight, but the door opens easily for him. Inside, there's blood everywhere. They run out, but Kit insists on checking on Muffy first. She feels something pushing against the door and forces it open, only to find Hal dangling by a noose right in front of the door.

They run out of the house toward the dock, but Constable Potter is nowhere in sight. Rob calls his name a few times, before deciding to look in the boathouse. Kit gets the willies, and begs him not to go in, so they check out the boat instead. The key is missing, but Kit finds a letter from a mental hospital. According to the hospital, someone with Muffy's last name recently escaped from the facility, and is a dangerous, psychotic individual.

Kit points out that Muffy has been at college, not in a hospital, for the last 3-4 years. Rob then mentions that Muffy mentioned a spare key for the boat, but it's back in the mansion. They sneak back to the house, crouching and trying to be a silent as possible. They find a basement window that's open, and get back in that way.

Right away, they find a trail of blood. The trail ends at the furnace, where they discover Muffy's clothes. Then they find a series of scrawled words on the wall--a record of height. Except that Muufy's name isn't the only one written on the to it, on the other side of the height line, is the name "Buffy". Kit remembers the picture in the study, and realizes that the letter from the psychiatric facility was about Buffy, not Muffy.

As she puts it all together for poor, dumb Rob, he seems to be distracted by something behind Kit. She spins around, and sees the painting with the eyes cut out staring at them. Rob grabs a metal bar to use as a weapon, then instructs Kit to move the painting. Behind it, they find that the eyes belong to Muffy's severed head, which rolls toward the screaming pair.

Outside, Buffy closes the basement window. They can see that she's holding a hammer, which she uses to nail the window shut. Rob and Kit jog up to the kitchen, where they see Buffy staring at them from a window. As they scurry around to look for the spare boat key, Buffy uses her knife to force the door latch to unlock.

Rob gets himself locked in a pantry, just as Buffy gets into the kitchen. She slowly approaches Kit, who backs away into the dining room. As Rob screams at Kit to run away, Kit begs Buffy to leave her alone. Buffy eventually climbs over the dining room table and corners Kit, raising the blade to deliver a fatal stab. Unable to do anything else, Kit gets the door behind her open, and runs into the next room.

She sees all of her friends, in different poses, all around the room. At first glance, no one's moving, so my first thought was that Buffy pulled a Happy Birthday To Me-style ending, or that perhaps Kit was hallucinating. But then Kit turns to stare at Buffy, turns back again, and Chazz is building a house of cards, Skip and Arch are shooting the shit, and Nan is reading a book, so...yeah, they're alive.

Kit faces Muffy/Buffy once again, and her friend demonstrates that the knife has a retractable blade. Kit screams in anger, and everyone begins laughing. April Fool's! From the pantry, Rob tearfully yells out to Kit how much he loves her, and a hand grabs him. It's Buck, still mangled up! He says, "I love you too, babe," and Rob punches him in the half-face. Then Buck kisses him on the cheek, pulls off the fake gore attached to half of his face, and sticks it to Rob's face.

Buck unlocks the pantry door, and Rob runs screaming into the library with the others. They see the fake gore hanging off of his cheek, and everyone starts laughing again. Then Muffy tells her friends how much she loves them, and reveals why she set up such an elaborate plan in the first place...

See, Muffy inherits the property on her next birthday, but the place is pretty expensive to keep up. Muffy, after doing some research, came up with the idea of opening up the mansion as a bed and breakfast, with a roleplaying/murder theme. As each person was "killed", they were told what was happening, and even helped Muffy plant clues and scare the others. Oh, and Buck is a makeup artist and the Constable is Uncle Frank, but the old man running the ferry is just a guy who runs people to and from the mainland.(Oh, and we also find out that it was the ferryman who saved Arch from the snake...and that Arch shit his pants. TMI...)

It's also revealed that Skip is actually Muffy's twin brother, and that Muffy didn't anticipate anyone bringing a gun along or having a bad reaction to her props(like Nan and the tape recorder). Then they party. A lot. Arch and Skip make the fake Arch head drink, Chazz makes the fake Muffy head go down on him, and Kit makes sure that everyone hoses Muffy down with champagne bottles. Heck, even Nan gets wasted, and finds out that the ferryman is her soulmate.

But wait! There's more! As the party winds down, a very tipsy Muffy stumbles off to bed. She passes by the noose that was used earlier, and finds a wrapped present on her bed. It's the Jack-in-the-box that was used to scare her in the first scene. She walks up to it, and sloooooooooooooowly begins to turn the crank. When a tiny harlequin pops up, Muffy sighs with relief--then a hand comes up and slits her throat, from ear to ear!

Muffy gasps and clutches her neck, only to discover that there's no wound. Nan pops up behind her, hugs her, then whispers, "April Fools" in her ear. She looks into the camera and smiles, then the little clown hanging out of the toy winks. THE END.

Except that it's not the original ending. In the original script, which the novelization was based on, Skip and a few others go back to the island after the others have left. He wants to kill Muffy becase of her wealth, but he gets killed in the ensuing fight. It makes a good surprise ending, but the other ending fits the themes of friendship and togetherness a bit better. Eh, either way I'm giving April Fool's Day 3.75 killer trees out of 5. If it had shown a little more of the attacks or the gore, I'd have given it at least a 4 out of 5, for the nostalgia.

And what have I learned from this week's slasher?

-I like the 1980's.
-A book can be gorier than a film. Go figure.
-A guy can go underwater, apply latex to his face, then emerge from the water and act his ass off. Wow!

I've heard that one of the direct-to-DVD films bearing the same name is a remake, but I haven't heard too much about its' quality. Anybody seen it? If so, comment on the remake, and let me know if I should see it or not. My next film came in early(for once...), so the next movie will be a British thriller called The Hole. See you on the other side!