Thursday, October 6, 2011

Isn't It Funny When We End Up Killing Our Peers?

April Fools contains the same premise as about 9,218 other films. It just happens to do it with a mostly-black cast. So that’s something, right?
Quick Plot: A group of 17-year-olds play a typically cruel prank on Melvin, a bespectacled nerd and apparent “V-Boy” (it means exactly what you think it does). After Melvin is cock-teased and humiliated, the gang rustles football-star-to-be Scoop into throwing a football at the suffering dweeb’s rear, not realizing that Melvin just so happens to be leaning over something sharp and pointy. He lands throat-first, prompting the kids to rehash the opening scene of I Know What You Did Last Summer to perfection.

Why does this picture look so familiar?
“We’re graduating next year! Girl One has an academic scholarship! Girl 2 is going to work for her parents while managing her very own dance troupe! Guy 1 has a full ride to play football! Girl 3 is going to be a doctor! Guy 2 and myself are going to get entry level jobs and stay out of prison! We can’t tell the cops!”
I’m paraphrasing, but not by that much. The gang agrees that the only possible solution--despite one of the members being the good-girl daughter of the chief police detective--is to shoot Melvin in the head and stage the scene as a drive-by. Since there are apparently no pedestrians at all hanging out ever on the streets of Chicago, they do so without a hitch.

Fast forward to spring of the next year--you know, the titular anniversary of the previous April Fools--where everyone seems on track. It’s the perfect time to kickstart a slasher formula, with The Girl Who Was Going To Be A Doctor meeting her slow-motioned stabbing fate in the basement of a mortuary. The Good Girl Who Has A Full Academic Scholarship grows immediately suspicious and voices her concerns to Eva, The Only Girl Whose Name I Wrote Down and who is also known as The Girl Who Will Work For Her Parents While Managing Her Very Own Dance Troupe. 

The dance troupe is important, you see, because it a) allows us to watch synchronized dancing, a la the only moment of worth in She’s All That, b) it provides a much-needed moment of camel-toe and c) it offers the cameraman the hilarious challenge of trying to frame Eva’s behind during an intense close-up of booty shaking. 
Perhaps in exasperation at the very thought of watching Eva’s rear end continue to have a seizure, the script kills her next with similar slow-motioned fanfare. Cut to the Spring Jam, hosted by Special Guest Star Li’l Flip*, where the kids get shaking and Stabby McStabberson continues to get slow motioned stabby.
You may have noticed that he words ‘slow motion’ have been repeated several times in the running of this post. It is, perhaps, the definitive style of April Fools and while we’ve seen it in plenty of slashers, my theory on why it’s so prevalent is a little more utilitarian: April Fools runs at just 72 minutes long, and that’s including two dance sequences, several flashbacks to the opening death, several establishing shots that show location signs then carefully zoom in on them, a pre-credits film recap, and post-credits blooper reel. Between those things, about 40% of the film’s action is shown in slow motion. To be kind, it’s a bit stretched.

But is the film awful? Well yes, but so are most Pretty People In Peril slashers of its ilk. There’s something of a mystery with WHO the killer might be, though as the body count rises and suspect list gets shorter, the answer becomes obvious. The script uses some filler to round out the Final Girl’s character, mostly with the “I’ve never seen this before!” subplot that her mother recently died of cancer and her dad works too much. We get the obligatory “I wish mom were still alive!” tantrum, plus a lecture by the brilliantly named Obba Babatunde’s lecture on the perils of peer pressure. Once the killer reveals him or herself, there’s a mildly tense--and not at all mildly slow motioned--final chase and battle, capped with some nursery rhymes that I suppose seemed fairly menacing on paper. 

Best. Semi-related. Image. Ever.
The film is not menacing in the least, but hey: it’s 72 minutes long. There are moments of unintentional hilarity and even MORE moments of unintentional hilarity via slow motion, but first-time director Nancy Norman could certainly have made a worse film. This ain’t as polished as the not-good-but-competent Chain Letter, but it also wasn’t Unborn Sins-level bad. As slashers go, the fact that the cast was primarily black is certainly something interesting, though the story and execution are as rote as they come.
*High Points
The opening credits announced a “Special Appearance By Li’l Flip” as if it were quite special and more importantly, as if I was supposed to know who Li’l Flip was. It was worrisome that I would sit through all 72 minutes of April Fools without ever catching this celebrity. You can then imagine my relief when Li’l Flip plays himself and the film makes it incredibly obvious and special that we get the proper introduction to just who this petite flip is.

Low Points
There’s a reason I don’t really remember anybody’s name, and an increasing amount of alcohol in my veins ain’t one of them
Lessons Learned
When you don’t have the rights to use the word ‘coke’ or ‘Pepsi’ on film, ‘pop’ and ‘cola’ will serve your purpose well enough

It’s incredibly difficult to find a good tutor in the Chicago public schooling system
Diener is German for servant...and there’s nothing weird about a white doctor pointedly telling that to his black assistant

Open Question To Mortician Readers
Is it just standard to EXPECT that on April Fool’s Day, someone will play the whole ‘This corpse is ALIVE’ prank?

April Fools is as by the book as slashers come, save for the fact that it features a more diverse cast than the Hollywood norm. That doesn’t make it good in any way, but at least it has something going for it other than a brief running time. As an Instant Watch, you might get a few laughs out of it, but there’s certainly nothing overly special...even in its 72 minutes.


  1. Wait, wait, the guy's name is Melvin? the bullied, humiliated and cockteased kid's name is Melvin? Are you sure there wasn't a post-credits scene where he suddenly came back to life as the Toxic Avenger? That would have surely improve the movie!

  2. AND it could've added five minutes to the running time!

  3. A much needed cameltoe?

  4. Trust me, you don't wanna know who Lil' Flip is. It's one of my disadvantages of having a brother 8 years your junior who thinks he's the next DJ Clue...

    I passed over this movie a time or two on Instant Watch. I'm just afraid of how bad I may find it and remind me of a time when Obba Babatunde had semi-decent roles.

  5. Anonymous, is there any other kind?

    Ashlee: I've no clue who this DJ Clue is, but I hope he shows up for the sequel! And Obba Babatunde better get good roles again, if only so I can hear a movie trailer guy say his name...

  6. I might have to sit through the other 70 minutes of this. MIGHT...

  7. Think i will take those 70 minutes and peruse the ole sock drawer.. lil flip is not enough to sway me. Who is that btw?

  8. Um, he's a flip that's li'l? His big moment actually comes when he hits on the final girl and gets rejected (mostly because she's busy trying to figure out if any of her friends are murdering or being murdered). So that's a cameo for ya.

    I guess Christine should sit through it because maybe then SHE can tell us about this flip.

  9. Good idea dd, We await your report Christine :)

  10. I was lucky enough to be born on April Fools Day, so I try to review a movie about April Fools every year, and this one was it for 2011. I don't know what was worse, the fact that they couldn't afford a collapsible knife, the fact that Lil' Flip is supposed to be so great that he performs at high schools-- then hits on the girls and gets rejected!--, or that Obba Babatunde's agent is apparently worse than Lil' Flip's.

    I think this would've been better if it had just had a sense of humor. A bathroom killing is crying out for funny, not a clunky, poorly choreographed murder. Simply put, this movie was sauteed in wrong sauce.

  11. Man, your birthday parties must be KICKING! Does Li'l Flip perform? If not, call his agent. And heck, maybe try Obba's also. I wouldn't be surprised if you could get the whole cast to come perform the birthday song to you next year.

    Excellent point about the sauce. THey should have realized how inefficient the horror would be and just gone a little more tongue-in-cheek. Ah well. I did love your review so perhaps it's for the best!