April Fool’s Day

Confinement adds a bit of an intrigue to a slasher, whether it’s the high gate in Hell Night or the dreamscape of A Nightmare on Elm Street. April Fool’s Day smartly employs an island to get more mileage out of its Ten Little Indians conceit.

[Check out our accompanying April Fool’s Day podcast]

A group of college seniors gathers at a dock for a spring break getaway. And compared with other films of this ilk, these folks are positively restrained when it comes to all the good vices. Instead, they talk about their futures (this was back when college students had a future. Today, the average student loan borrower has US $37,172 in student loan debt, 20k higher than a decade and a half ago). Unsolicited advice: pick a trade and stick to it.

They mug for the camcorder and banter about utility curves and Paradise Lost (to the extent that that’s even possible) before sailing over the island, accessible only by ferry and complete with its own sprawling mansion (the family home of Kennedy-esque WASP elite Muffy St. John, the host of the shindig).

As the group settles down to supper, they experience a slew of April Fool’s-related pranking that includes falling doorknobs and spray faucets.

When one goes missing, the joking ceases. And they have to contact cops on the mainland, post haste.

Fred Walton directs (he who gave us the sporadically fun if overly procedural, When a Stranger Calls) and he’s in full command of his craft here, as there are some legitimate little scares. But the real star is writer Danilo Bach (Beverly Hills Cop) who gives April Fool’s Day whip-smart dialogue, almost too good than it deserves (an outlier for the slasher boom, that’s for sure, which was sputtering to its end around the late 80s)

Like Sleepaway Camp, this one will be mostly remembered for its top-notch denouement, a dynamite pretzel-worthy twist.

***1/2 (out of 5)

Most Likely to Die

This cap-n’-gown horror had us mortar-bored. The title, Most Likely to Die also doubles as a box office prediction, as this is one stinker of a slasher.

A group of idiots gathers for a 10-year reunion at the sprawling mansion of an ex-NHLer, Ryan (recently cut by the New York Rangers — thank YOU newspaper headline exposition).

Unfortunately, Ryan is nowhere to be found. His leering caretaker — another red herring in a movie with so many you could host a Ukrainian buffet — lets them in.

So, what has this group of highschool-obsessed nitwits accomplished in the interceding decade? Well, among their ranks there’s a famous TV star, Brad (Ryan Doom); a brooding drunk, Freddie (played by celeb blogger scum-bag Perez Hilton, who if his weathered face is any indication, graduated from the group’s high school at age 30); and wanna-be poker standout, Gaby (Glee’s Heather Morris).

They along with other friends (including the one stuck in a life of small-town hell) hash out the usual happy reminiscences and petty grievances over beers, until one of them stumbles upon a plot device point-of-discussion: that kid who was bullied and who then committed suicide, and who was complicit in his untimely demise.

So, Most Likely to Die goes down the I Know What You Did Last Summer/Pledge Night road: victims who possibly deserved their fate.

They’re hunted one by one by demented killer, “The Graduate”, although Most Likely to Die definitely qualifies as GED, rather than summa cum laude horror.

As he goes about his gruesome business, he crosses out victims on a “most likely to” high school yearbook collage.

This one features a ham-handed cell signal explanation, a victim-on-display in lights (a la seemingly every episode of Criminal Minds), a chaste strip tease, and garishly slick cinematography. Half a star awarded for a spectacular hockey stick kill, a nice companion piece to the skate-blade in Halloween H2O.

*1/2 (out of 5)

[Listen to our podcast discussion of Most Likely to Die!]