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)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

“Freddy delivers” the poster says. Pizza, or babies? It’s the latter here, as evil as obstetrician Cosby turned out to be in real life.

Freddy’s not dead in this fifth installment, so you can forget the Curtis Mayfield song. In A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child he’s sprightly and revivified.

The Springwood Slasher’s worst quipping excesses are tempered, and what you get is leaner and decidedly meaner than the predecessor, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. A welcome sign.

The opener’s gangbusters. There’s a woman in a shower, and she sees a gurgling in the drain. Instead of snaking it or calling in a reputable plumber, she reaches into the brown goo, which gurgles to the surface as a geyser. Next thing she knows, the shower is full of water and she’s gasping. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 immediately plays with the twin fears of closed spaces and drowning.  It’s a terrific updating of The Master’s Psycho scene, and sets a tone for a film that while somewhat uneven, is better than it’s been given credit for.

Alice (Lisa Wilcox) is pregnant. And having sleep issues. And the bogeyman with the striped sweater is haunting not her dreams, but those of the child she’s carrying.

Call ’em what you will…a baby…a fetus…NOES 5 asks a question that’s a bit like Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, with “do unborn babies dream?” They certainly do. Science tells us that after seven months in the womb, the rest of the time is spent in dreamland. This is by brain wave inference.

That’s as explosive and interesting a conceit as the Nightmare on Elm St series has seen, and if you’re on board with this baby, you’ll have a helluva good time.

Sure, some of the secondary characters have tertiary personalities, but that’s often par for the course for slashers.

While not reaching the transcendent heights of Dream Warriors or the first flick, this one is a surprisingly solid effort. Don’t let the 5.1 on IMDb sway you.

*** (out of 5)

[Listen to our take on The Dream Child on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]