April Fool's Day is the Pick of the Week

A very misunderstood '80s cult classic headlines a new week of pretty solid releases.
  |   Comments

During the late 1980's, the slasher flick was getting stale, and everyone was trying to either make their own Nightmare on Elm Street, considering how big that film was in 1984, or just simply bailing on the genre. However, there were some standouts near the end of the decade, but for my money, the one that tops them all is Fred Walton's totally underrated 1986 effort, April Fool's Day. I always found this to be an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek fest that has aged way better than its contemporaries. It still contains a style and sense of humor that you don't often find in spoofs or parodies today. 

The plot, which I have to agree is not entirely memorable, is about a young college student named Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman) who invites her friends to her parents' isolated island home for a weekend of fun and frolic. The fun comes to end abruptly when they are being picked off one-by-one by an unseen maniac. Just think of it as a cross between Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None and the early slasher comedy Student Bodies (1981). If you don't think of the premise too often, you'll get a film that has lots of attitude, creepiness, and actual atmosphere, without relying on the usual splatter/blood & guts. The ending, which is one of the most infamous in horror history, even further heightens the film's legacy. It also has a typically terrific performance by genre icon Amy Steel. Just let your standards loose for a bit, and enjoy the fun and menace of in my opinion, one of the all-time great cult classics.

While not as on par with their other stacked releases, the new collector's edition from Scream Factory should be a worthy addition to any horror fanatic's collection, since it has some new interviews with Walton, actors Deborah Goodrich Royce and Clayton Rohner, composer Charle Bernstein, and cinematographer Charles Minsky. There is also a theatrical trailer and original TV spots as well. I wish there could have been interviews with Steel and the rest of the cast, and a commentary would have been nice too, but let's just be grateful to have the film at all in a new Blu-ray release.

Other great releases:

The Cranes Are Flying (Criterion): A 1957 masterpiece by Mikhail Kalatozov about Veronica and Boris, a couple madly in love until World War II separates them. As Boris is off at war, Veronica has to defend herself from the unwanted advances from his reckless cousin.

Leave Her to Heaven (Criterion): The lovely Gene Tierney plays a beautiful socialite who meets a writer (Cornel Wilde) on a train. They fall in love and get married afterwards, but then she becomes disturbingly possessive of him, which threatens to undo them, as well as everyone else around them. 

Dodsworth: William Wyler's unusually mature 1936 classic starring Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton as a retired auto manufacturer and his very vain wife, as they take on an European vacation, and find that their interests lie with other people.

1917: Sam Mendes' Oscar-winning war epic centering on two young British soldiers that are given an impossible mission, where they are forced to cross enemy lines to deliver a message that will stop a deadly ambush of other soldiers, that happens to include the older brother of one of them.

Little Women: a new release of Gillian Armstrong's acclaimed 1994 version of the Louisa May Alcott classic about the lives of the March sisters: Jo (Winona Ryder), Amy (Kirsten Dunst), Beth (Claire Danes), and Meg (Trini Alvarado).

Come to Daddy: Elijah Wood plays a man who travels to a remote cabin to reconnect with his estranged father (Stephen McHattie) whose shady past comes back to haunt him in a very bad way. Read Kent Conrad's review.

Follow Us