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Thursday, November 4, 2021

The ‘April Fool’s Day’ Remake Kills Off All the Charm of the Original Slasher [Revenge of the Remakes]

Welcome to Revenge of the Remakes, where columnist Matt Donato takes us on a journey through the world of horror remakes. We all complain about Hollywood’s lack of originality whenever studios announce new remakes, reboots, and reimaginings, but the reality? Far more positive examples of refurbished classics and updated legacies exist than you’re willing to remember (or admit). The good, the bad, the unnecessary – Matt’s recounting them all.

I’ve had quite the rewarding streak here at “Revenge of the Remakes” in terms of subject quality since A Nightmare On Elm Street, so let’s fuck all that up! After watching 1986’s April Fool’s Day, Horror Queers’ very own Joe Lipsett questioned if I’d be tackling the 2008 remake for the column. I intended to do something Halloween related on the heels of October, but my curiosity in The Butcher Brothers’ straight-to-TV April Fool’s Day won out.

Before we start comparing morbid schemes and fake deaths, I’ll level with y’all. Fred Walton’s April Fool’s Day is a performative and psychotic whodunit with the holiday’s spirit jingling like bells on a jester’s cap. The Butcher Brothers’ careless and catty April Fool’s Day is a joyless interpretation that’s more a whydyoudoit. The latter film never achieves any suspense around the ruse at hand, which highlights the biggest problem of remaking April Fool’s Day. How can you shock audiences once again with an ending that’s now widely popularized? The answer is you can’t, and the “step further” attempt is more of an insult to the audience than a double-down gotcha. Yikes all around…


‘April Fool’s Day’ (1986)

The Approach

Danilo Bach’s screenplay for the original April Fool’s Day is playing with fire yet lands the punchline. Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman) throws a party for her affluent group of future global leaders at her arrive-by-ferry mansion, where her guests start getting murdered — which all turns out to be Muffy testing her bed-and-breakfast immersive murder mystery on her invitees. It’s the equivalent of a film ending with the revelation of everything being a dream or hallucination. Cinematography makes it seem characters are laughing at the audience once Muffy explains everything — and surprisingly, we join with giggles. There’s no infuriation.

The Butchers Brothers approach April Fool’s Day with all the enthusiasm of an uptight after-school special about affluenza, maybe even worse. Torrance Caldwell (Scout-Taylor Compton) is gifted a debutante ball by local Kardashian replacement family the Cartiers, where attendee Milan Hastings (Sabrina Ann Aldridge) dies in a freak seizure-off-the-balcony accident. Blaire Cartier (Josh Henderson), Desire Cartier (Taylor Cole), and other guilty friends are beckoned to Milan’s grave on the first anniversary of her death, with a message that dares call out wrongdoing amidst the group. It’s true — Blaire tried to bed her that night for a sex tape as part of Desire’s spitefully epic prank, and Milan’s freak medical condition supports tampering or possible drugging beforehand. Until the truth comes out, everyone’s life is in danger.

It’s a snobbier departure that tries to blend “The OC” with far more intuitive stalker flicks. The moronic “joke” that kills Milan fumbles any April Fool’s Day atmosphere. Characters in the remake are embarrassingly one-note, stuck within their upper-crust stereotypes. There is no question about the film’s blueprints. The Butcher Brothers are embarrassingly forward, and that ruins whatever suspenseful atmosphere the film attempts to provide. It’s a movie about deception that couldn’t be more conspicuous.


‘April Fool’s Day’ (2008)

Does It Work?

What works least is the attempt to duplicate the illusion that Fred Walton and Danilo Bach conquer in their April Fool’s Day, which excels as a believable slasher narrative that becomes a cruel joke. The Butcher Brothers respond with a bland Carolina riddle as background bodies from an episode of “The Hills” stumble through a clumsy, thrill-devoid thriller. The essence of certain aspects resonates as Muffy’s and Desire’s cohorts are all considered elite in their post-collegiate aspirations. Still, The Butcher Brothers can’t see past the glitzy shimmers of diamond accessories and millionaire accents to define their characters. There’s a real goofy-goober sense of cheesiness that Walton accentuates — while still painting its crass womanizers as sleazeballs with some of those “pickup” lines — which The Butcher Brothers jettison. That, right there, shows such a lack of understanding about the original’s charm.

The “deaths” themselves lack a replicable sense of slasher savagery, as Muffy’s production employs talented practical effects technicians to achieve gore (within the narrative). Blaine’s master plan to coax a confession from his sister Desiree (Taylor Cole) tries to sell the same mischievousness practical effects by hired specialists. Yet, the 2008’s death sequences are less involved on the whole; thinking of loudmouth politician Peter who gets “run over” by a car — we see some briefcase contents get tossed into the air. There’s a juicy slit throat on cameraman Ryan (Joe Egender) — a throwback to Muffy’s pornography aficionado Chaz (Clayton Rohner) — but everything is just so unspectacular. Where 1986’s April Fool’s Day succeeds in masking its gimmick, 2008’s April Fools Day expires with a deathly wheeze like one of those dollar store plastic chicken toys.

It’s an insult to movies like Clue that have paved the way for diabolical misdirections in cinema, not even paying mind to performances and scriptwriting that make 80s slashers look like Oscar contenders. April Fool’s Day pretends like the “living” ghost of Milan isn’t another character in a wig, nor does Blaire’s asshole of a “protagonist” vying for control of his family’s luxurious and bountiful estate ever redeem itself as a narrative. It’s all mean-spirited jabs with no punctuation and fanciful flashes of classless “humor” like effeminate Perez Hilton wannabe Charles (Joseph McKelheer) dying in a pool as he jumps in, arms flailing as a cheap emasculation joke. It’s an ugly film, not just in stale cinematography. I say that in comparison to some of the coarse, crude dialogue Muffy’s male partiers use to try and bed female targets for lack of better phrasing (admitted as much by Thomas F. Wilson’s horndog).


‘April Fool’s Day’ (2008)

The Result

The Butcher Brothers’ April Fool’s Day and Fred Walton’s April Fool’s Day are night and day. On paper, they both accept the same challenge — fool audiences. One succeeds in defying the unthinkable by negating countless kills on screen, removing any actual horror, and still squeezing in one more prank that yet again mocks death and permanence in slasher cinema.

The other? An exemplary case study about the unoriginal, cash-in remakes that many define as the plight of aughts horror trends, reaching so deep into the nostalgia well you have to scratch your head over why April Fool’s Day was on anyone’s list of fanbases to reignite.

There’s an introductory stretch of 1986’s April Fool’s Day that indulges Muffy’s prankster attitude with undrinkable glassware, breakaway chairs, and crossed lightswitch wires that drill home the film’s tonal buffoonery. The Butcher Brothers barely execute enough pranks to count on your hand throughout their entire film, and yet we’re supposed to believe Desire is this devious pranker because of the way her cohorts describe her aloud. It’s almost like 2008’s April Fool’s Day actively despises the original it’s aping, beyond an opening party sequence where characters introduce themselves through videographer interviews and the overall structure. Blaine gets “tricked” into sipping champagne that turns his teeth black, a fake critter lunges from a produce bowl on Torrance’s film set (she’s an actress), but it’s all without the same snicker and appropriate eye-rolling from a place of humorous humility.

This sentiment echoes as The Butcher Brothers play their final trick on viewers by subverting the original’s happy-go-lucky sendoff. Desire is shot with a real bullet from the supposed prop gun — what a terrible selection to watch after the recent Rust tragedy — and her sleazebag brother Blaine drives away in his sportscar after being awarded sole possession of all his family’s riches. Remember how I said 2008’s April Fool’s Day struggles to make you care about its affluent stereotypes from pageant queens to senate wannabes? Blaine’s getaway encapsulates that misfire feeling and concludes with such a heavy sigh. It’s pointlessly nasty without social status commentary and always conveying the slightest enthusiasm — no thanks?


‘April Fool’s Day’ (2008)

The Lesson

It’s hard to understand why you’d choose to remake April Fool’s Day without any of the vitality, belly-laughter, and prank-centric entertainment. The Butcher Brothers remix sucks any energy from Fred Walton’s grinning farce — a hollow cinematic shell of a comedic slasher that supposedly is meant to be funny, at least how Phil Flores (a Butcher Brother) describes. As per Flores, 2008’s April Fool’s Day is “pretty much contemporized, with off-beat humor, different settings — something that would gel with today’s audience.” It says a lot about the creator’s opinion of us if April Fool’s Day means to represent late 2000s horror fans.

So what did we learn?

  • Know what makes an original tick and make sure that shines in the remake, whether or not your approach is different.
  • Maybe movies that depend on a trick play finale shouldn’t be remade?
  • Low-hanging fruit is easy to grab for a reason.
  • Sometimes, once in a blood moon, a remake is just a bad idea.

I’m not mad (maybe a little bit), just disappointed. April Fool’s Day is one of those bombs that gives horror remakes a lousy reputation. It’s a shambling corpse of the original it lays to rest, and I’m not even that precious about Fred Walton’s class clown. There’s so little resemblance to the original’s spirit, commitment to bits, and cackling sense of humor that separate April Fool’s Day from a pack of lookalike 80s slasher flicks. There’s nothing here that makes me understand why April Fool’s Day had to be remade, which is the most damning sin I can bring up throughout this column.

Some might say April Fool’s Day is…[lowers sunglasses]…no laughing matter.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3690566/april-fools-day-remake-kills-off-charm-original-slasher-revenge-remakes/

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