April Fool’s Day was one of the first slasher movies I ever saw, circa the VHS era, and it remains one of my favorites in the genre. Aside from its clever, Agatha-Christie-meets-Jason-Voorhees premise, its unusually good cast (led by Amy Steel, a Final Girl twice over after Friday the 13th Part 2), and its amazing display of 1980s preppy fashion—it has some genuine scares.
Granted, the movie is a tongue-in-cheek take on the slasher genre, but it contains a fair amount of unsettling stuff. There’s a prank that references a character’s unwanted pregnancy, so oddly mean-spirited it warrants an apology later in the script. More happily (uh, if you’re a gorehound), there’s a memorably gross scene in which a man’s face, including his eyeball, is shredded by an outboard motor. Eek!
But for my money, there’s nothing freakier than that goddamn jack-in-the-box, which appears during an opening-credits flashback to a child’s birthday party. There’s a long, agonizing build-up as she turns the crank—and then, even though you just know that whatever pops out will not be friendly, the actual reveal is so much worse, and SO WORTH IT. (Even better: as the kid screams, the adults laugh with cruel delight in the background.) It’s a simple gimmick, but it really sets the tone for what’s to come.