April Fool's Day (2008)

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 05/12/08 09:45:38

"Its refrigerator isn't running."
1 stars (Sucks)

The 1986 horror flick “April Fool’s Day” is a movie ripe for the remake treatment. Its premise was clever and its title remains memorable, yet even its most ardent fans will admit it’s plenty flawed. As a movie that’s admired in horror circles but not loved, a remake would be no insult. Indeed, a pinch of wit and a keen eye for balancing chills with laughs could even lead to an improvement of the material.

And yet here we have a new “April Fool’s Day” that’s completely absent of wit and keen eyes. Its makers borrow the title and general concept - rich kids’ penchant for practical jokes turns to murder - and little else. The result is a total stinker, a dull-as-dirt slasher movie invaded by fashion model rejects from the CW network.

We open on April 1, 2007, and a debutante ball for the well-to-do in North Carolina. Spoiled yuppie princess Desiree (Taylor Cole) springs a series of pranks on guests and staff - but one joke goes too far when Milan (Sabrina Aldridge) is slipped a roofie, succumbs to an allergic reaction to the drug, and winds up taking a swan dive off the balcony. Sure beats rubber dog poo.

Flash forward to 2008. Desiree and her friends spent a year trying to clear their names in court and the press, ultimately walking away from Milan’s death scot free. Then comes April 1, and the gang’s summoned to Milan’s grave, where a package arrives. In it is a warning, from Milan herself: the person responsible for the roofie must come clean, or else everyone’s going to start dying. There’s also a video of one guy’s death from the night before, which means Milan started early. Isn’t that cheating?

The rest of the film plays out as you might guess. Nobody fesses up to the crime; bodies start dropping one by one; Desiree, in an attempt to crack the mystery, gets chased by someone who may or may not be Milan. This being “April Fool’s Day,” there’s an attempt to make some of the horror scenes “gotchas” that turn out to not be real, although such switcheroos lack the devilish zing of the original film. (The script cheats by having one character be the star of a horror movie, and having murders turn out to be movie-within-a-movie bits is a lot lazier than having to come up with more inventive ways to hoodwink the audience.)

Fans of the original movie will fail to be surprised by much of what unfolds, especially in the final scenes. The late revelations fail to thrill, and while one last-minute gotcha is effective, it’s also completely unearned, with an overlong epilogue erasing the punch such a twist might have otherwise packed..

The remake is directed by Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores, credited once again as “The Butcher Brothers.” Such a pseudonym suggests a knack for visual brutality, or perhaps reckless cinematic abandon - rebels interested in pushing the envelope. Indeed, while their debut effort, the indie chiller “The Hamiltons” (released as part of the After Dark series), was met with mixed reviews, most of the write-ups discussed a knack for low-rent dread that one might expect from filmmakers with such a nickname.

Alas, the directors barely even bother touching the envelope in this weak follow-up (from a screenplay by rookie scribe Mikey Wigart). They seem content to follow the same generic pretty-people-get-chased-and-sometimes-killed formula found in most PG-13 horror flicks these days. And while “April Fool’s Day” isn’t PG-13 (it’s a full R), it certainly feels it - it's as soulless and uninvolving, let alone non-frightening, as most of the other horror remakes of late.

Looks like the joke’s on us.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.