April Fool’s Day (1986)
★ / ★★★★
A group of preppy friends (Jay Baker, Pat Barlow, Deborah Goodrich, Ken Olandt, Mike Nomad, Leah Pinsent, Clayton Rohner, Amy Steel, Thomas F. Wilson) accepted an invitation from Muffy (Deborah Foreman), their friend who was about to get a substantial inheritance, to go to an island and relax in her mansion. But it was the first day of April and everyone was simply waiting for the perfect opportunity to play a prank on each other. But when one of the friends got his face stuck between the boat and the pier, the mood turned grim. The fact that there seemed to be a serial killer on the loose turned the college students’ nice vacation into a gorefest. Written by Danilo Bach and directed by Fred Walton, “April Fool’s Day” had an interesting premise but it ultimately didn’t work because it lacked tension. We fully know the outcome would be one of two ways: The murderer was the real deal or it was all an elaborate prank. Since the material failed to generate genuine suspense and therefore distracting us from one of the possibilities, it wasn’t fun to sit through. We just couldn’t help but attempt to outsmart the film before it yelled, “Gotcha!” Nobody likes to feel tricked. The picture also made the fatal error of not differentiating its characters. All of them were white, upper-middle class who had no idea which direction to take their life after graduation. All the men had sex on their minds while the women were typical vixens as they waited for the guys to jump their bones. Not one character exhibited an iota of intelligence especially when they supposedly tried to survive. For example, two of the characters decided that they would finally leave the island after many suspicious events, to say the least, had transpired. But the key for the boat was inside the dark house. What did they decide to do? They excitedly went back inside the house, after they stumbled upon their friends’ dead bodies, in the middle of the night. They didn’t even have a weapon. Wouldn’t it have been a better idea to wait in the boat until morning arrived? At least they would have a fighting chance in daylight. The boat was surrounded by water. The only way the killer would be able to get to them was to walk along the jetty, perfectly visible from the boat’s vantage point. “April Fool’s Day” was the kind of horror picture that would have someone yelling at the screen out of frustration. The characters may have money but they have no brain. If it was trying to be campy, it shouldn’t have been afraid to go all the way. By maximizing the hyperboles, at least the audiences are made aware that it was poking fun of itself.
Trick ‘r Treat (2008)
★★★ / ★★★★
Written and directed by Michael Dougherty, “Trick ‘r Treat” is a whole lot of fun to watch and it’s a shame it didn’t get a proper (and well-deserved) theatrical release. The film was an anthology of four stories that featured what would happen if the traditions of Halloween were broken: a virgin (Anna Paquin) who gets teased by her sister and friends for being awkward with men and saving herself for that “special someone,” a high school principal (Dylan Baker) who poisons his candies and has an even darker secret inside of his home, a group of friends (Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Isabelle Deluce, Britt McKillip, Alberto Ghisi) who pulls a prank on a lonely girl (Samm Todd), and a couple (Leslie Bibb, Tahmoh Penikett) whose first scene didn’t make much sense but became pretty important as the film started wrapping up everything. “Trick ‘r Treat” wasn’t particularly scary for me other than Sam, a child-looking sack-headed treat or treater with button eyes, but I thought it worked because all of the mini-stories had a commonality that was explored from beginning to end. However, don’t get me wrong because even though I didn’t think it was scary, it still had an element of darkness. For instance, the film was not scared to kill off children and even show the audiences their dead and sometimes mutilated bodies. This movie reminded me a lot of “Tales from the Crypt” because even though it explored morbid subject matter, there was always that element of humor and campiness which often remind us that it’s just a movie. I also liked that it referenced some of the other actors’ works through their characters outside of this project. For instance, Brian Cox’ independent film called “Red” and Anna Paquin’s popular television show “True Blood.” I admired that self-awareness because it didn’t get distracted from the storytelling, which is very difficult to be achieved, especially by Hollywood mainstream horror flicks. My only complaint about it is that maybe it could have used one more storyline for a slightly longer running time. I was so fascinated with what was going on so when the credits started rolling, I felt a bit sad that it was over. I will not be surprised at all if this eventually becomes a cult classic because it has a purpose, is smart and not afraid to be different. I wouldn’t mind adding this to my film collection.
Bride Wars (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
The trailers were more fun than the actual movie. Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson star as two best friends who, due to a clerical error, were scheduled to have their weddings on the same day. Since the two had their weddings all planned out since childhood, neither lets go of the day and they try to exact revenge on each other instead of dealing with the problem at hand like sane individuals. Having said that, I eventually saw the potential in this film when the two characters started to feel guilt for their actions. I wish the picture had focused more on that instead of the silly (and really ugly) pranks. Yes, the pranks were funny on the surface but there’s an inherent sadness and shame about the whole thing because the audiences are forced to see two best friends destroy each other’s lives. The pranks did not just impact the wedding but their careers and relationship with other people as well. In my opinion, the ending should have been more grim instead of the whole saying-“Sorry”-makes-everything-all-better approach. I doubt that Hathaway would want to be remembered in this wedding-themed movie because, although I love her in pretty much anything (including this one), the script was really weak and the message was way too obvious to fully engage an intelligent audience. While watching “Bride Wars,” I wished I was watching “Rachel Getting Married” instead because at least that one featured a character that was edgy, unlikeable and complex. In “Bride Wars,” everything felt so light and sugar-y to the point where it ended up getting kind of dull. I don’t consider it completely horrible because I like the cast. (Other than the leads, I also enjoyed watching Candice Bergen, Kristen Johnston, Bryan Greenberg, Steve Howey and Chris Pratt.) But it’s not something that I’ll recommend to people other than those who are specifically looking for something harmless and forgettable.