You have to love April Fools. Otherwise, you might end up blowing your brains out. What feels like a film with production values above typical “urban horror” fare turns out to be frustratingly devoid of quality. But where quality is lacking, camp appeal reigns supreme, and if camp is April Fools‘ ultimate goal, it’s downright brilliant. This is a perfect storm of incompetence on all fronts: acting, writing, direction, editing, continuity, special effects and basic human decency.
April Fools has no qualms about promoting itself as “I Know What You Did Last Summer with an urban twist,” but the set-up is actually more like Terror Train: a group of high schoolers pull an April Fools’ Day gag on class nerd Melvin (Lamorne Morris), setting him up to be seduced and then rejected as they all laugh in his face and recite a taunt that shouldn’t be uttered by anyone beyond the second grade: “April Fool’s, you’re a fool. Tell your best friend he ain’t cool. If he punch you, don’t you cry. Punch him back and say goodbye!”
Then they pants him. Scoop, the requisite jock (you know this because he carries a football), takes things a step further, however, and tosses the pigskin at Melvin’s head, knocking him to the ground and impaling him on a metal rod (Who left this darn impaling rod lying around?). Unlike I Know What You Did Last Summer, which involved drunk driving, there’s not much reason for these kids not to call the cops at this point, but let’s suppose that they just really didn’t want to get the police involved…Why don’t they just run away? No, they decide to pick up dead Melvin, PUTTING EVERYONE’S FINGERPRINTS ON HIS BODY, then carry him to the bushes, and SHOOT HIM to make it look like a gang hit… Yep, I’m sure the class nerd was quite the banger.
It’s at this point that I realize the the omission of an apostrophe in the title was intentional, because these kids are indeed fucking idiots. Fast-forward to a year later, and — surprise surprise — a hooded killer begins killing the pranksters off one by one. Thus begins what would be a generic slasher if it weren’t so jaw-droppingly hamfisted. How hamfisted is it? Let me count the ways (in chronological order, for your convenience):
- Scoop’s fatal toss has the velocity of soup, and it hits Melvin on the butt. Granted, he’s a nerd, but does he also have an inner-ear infection?
- When Melvin dies, he clearly falls BESIDE the metal rod and not ON it. It’s called movie magic, people. Let’s try using some of it.
- In every single close-up of Melvin’s “dead” body, he moves — at least four separate times.
- All establishing shots in the movie appear to be taken with either a low-end camcorder or a high-end ViewMaster.
- DeAnna, the first of the hooded killer’s victims, dies after being tapped politely on the back with a knife. The attack is shown in slow-motion, as if that’s supposed to obscure the fact that she’s basically getting a pointy massage.
- When Eva is showering, how about NOT showing us that she’s wearing a strapless bra?
- Once again, the filmmakers assume the viewers never got a basic Sesame Street grasp of the difference BESIDE and ON TOP, as they show a locker fall BESIDE Eva (post-semi-clothed shower) and then cut to a shot of her trapped BENEATH it.
- One of the homicide detectives assigned to the case is played by Darrin Henson of Darrin’s Dance Grooves fame.
- Every death scene is like Remedial Slasher 101. The lights go out (How does he always know where the fuse box is?), the victim says, “[Insert name here], is that you? Stop messing around!” The realization that it’s not [Insert name here] hits the victim, and the masked killer steps out of the shadows, holding a knife. The sound of my own snoring jolts me awake.
- When Missy (Aaliyah Franks), who’s our heroine only because she doesn’t taunt Melvin quite as harshly as the others, suspects that an intruder might be in her house, she shouts, “Missy, are you home?” WTF?
- Missy finds “surveillance camera footage” of DeAnna’s killing, and it’s the same footage from the film, so in order to get these shots, there had to be a surveillance camera at ground level PULLING BACK WITH THE ACTION, and then someone ran it in SLOW MOTION. OMFG.
- Lil’ Flip makes a musical appearance basically to boost the credits and the running time (barely 70 minutes as it is). He performs for over three minutes, during which time HOLY HELL, WE’VE SPLICED INTO YOU GOT SERVED. There’s an entire choreographed dance sequence on the floor from people who aren’t even involved in the story. Somebody‘s been watching Darrin’s Dance Grooves…
- When Missy leaves the crowded dance to go to the bathroom, she spots the killer and runs back, but now she’s suddenly in a dark, secluded hallway. WHERE’S THE DANCE?!?! You know, the one with, like, 50 people working on their choreography?
- Missy FINALLY finds her way back to the dance, but the killer just strolls in after her. Missy’s ex-boyfriend Malik (Malik Middleton) tussles with him, bumping into other partygoers and starting — you guessed it — a barroom brawl! Except without the barroom. Random folks start fighting out of the blue, and Malik ends up getting stabbed. Patrick Swayze is nowhere to be found.
- When the killer’s identity is revealed, it’s no surprise because during the dance, the killer is shown WITHOUT A MASK, with just a hoodie shrouding his eyes. By this point in the movie, I’d rolled my eyes so much that my wife thought I was having a seizure.
Obba Babatunde adds some much-needed legitimacy as Missy’s father, but not enough to save April Fools from itself. And as Anthony Mackie’s star turn in Crossover showed, bad material can actually drag a good actor down with it. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about April Fools is that it isn’t meant to be Shakespeare, and in its attempt to not be Shakespeare, it succeeds unequivocally. Its production value is just good enough to make it enjoyably bad; just add a six-pack and some anti-seizure medication.