One of the nice things about all of the holiday themed slasher movies is that at least you can schedule ahead what you’re going to watch on certain days. Halloween, My Bloody Valentine,Graduation Day, you’ve pretty much got a full calendar. But, April Fool’s Day? Is that really a day which inspires terror? Well, let’s see. According to the April Fools website, “The history of April Fool's Day or All Fool's Day is uncertain, but the current thinking is that it began around 1582 in France with the reform of the calendar under Charles IX. The Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year's Day was moved from March 25 - April 1 [new year's week] to January 1. Communication traveled slowly in those days and some people were only informed of the change several years later. Still others, who were more rebellious refused to acknowledge the change and continued to celebrate on the last day of the former celebration, April 1. These people were labeled "fools" by the general populace, were subject to ridicule and sent on "fool errands," sent invitations to nonexistent parties and had other practical jokes played upon them.”
Soooo, wacky hijinks played on unsuspecting dupes. Not really all that frightening. Ah, but what if the pranks involved stabbings and hangings and decapitations? That might work a little better, wouldn’t it? At least that’s what Paramount Pictures was probably thinking when they churned out April Fool’s Day as a companion to their Friday The 13th series. Unfortunately, by 1986, slashers were headed on their way out, so I guess audiences just weren’t that interested and the movie flopped. And that’s too bad, because a lot of people missed what turned out to be a really fun movie.
Mostly it’s the cast that makes up the band of college buddies which is the main appeal of April Fool’s Day. Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl, My Chauffeur) is pretty much likable any moment she’s on screen (even when she’s totally creepy swishing a big butcher around), Amy Steel once again proves she’s one of the best final girls in film, and the rest of the relatively unknowns come across as people you might actually have known in school rather than just a bunch of stereotypes waiting in line to be slaughtered.
There’s just something irresistible about the mixture of comedy and horror when it’s done right, like say in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein or Evil Dead II. (On the flipside, there’s something atrocious when it’s done wrong, like in the inexecrable Scary Movie franchise.) And it’s done pretty well in April Fool’s Day, albeit much more low key than Bruce Campbell fighting his own hand. And it’s not just because the titular holiday allows for a bunch of practical jokes (exploding cigars, dribble glasses, whoopee cushions, fake eyeballs hanging out of their sockets), but because the script breezes along with a lightheartedness that’s atypical of the genre. Yes, there might be (and I stress “might be”) stabbings and hangings and decapitations, but the movie never really focuses on them like a Friday The 13th or New Years Evil does. (In fact, almost all of the gore was edited out before the movie was even released.) Instead, April Fool’s Day concentrates on the Ten Little Indians style mystery and, better yet, the seriocomic interactions between the group of friends.
There’s a similar mixture of giggles and gravitas in this week’s first reading where the prophet Samuel is sent to the house of Jesse to anoint Israel’s next king. This was a momentous and weighty occurrence since the pouring of olive oil over the head of the chosen one basically signified that individual as God's representative. The humor comes in the fact that Samuel wasn’t actually told beforehand who he was supposed to be looking for. So when Jesse’s hulking oldest son Eliab comes lumbering in from the fields, Samuel takes a look at the guy (whom I’ve always pictured as a Lil’ Abner type) and assumes he must be the one. But God says no. The next six sons are shot down in similar fashion. It’s only when Samuel runs out of people to choose from that Jesse up and admits he has one more kid so puny and unimpressive that he didn’t even bother to call him in to meet the prophet. That son was, of course, David, and upon the boy’s entrance, God informs Samuel that this is the one to be anointed.
You get the impression that everyone feels like they’re being punked. You can almost hear the voice in their heads asking, “What, this kid? Is this April Fool’s Day or something?” And it’s hardly the last time David would garner that reaction either. Even the giant Goliath couldn’t stop from laughing himself silly the first time he saw the boy. Well, at least until that rock beaned him in the skull anyway. The point is, God’s choices aren’t always the obvious ones. In fact, as the stories of the Saints often remind us, it’s the least likely people that God can make the most use of. Speaking to the youth of England in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI assured them that “ No one who looks realistically at our world today could think that Christians can afford to go on with business as usual, ignoring the profound crisis of faith which has overtaken our society, or simply trusting that the patrimony of values handed down by the Christian centuries will continue to inspire and shape the future of our society… Each of us has a mission, each of us is called to change the world, to work for a culture of life, a culture forged by love and respect for the dignity of each human person… Be open to his voice resounding in the depths of your heart: even now his heart is speaking to your heart… Ask our Lord what he has in mind for you! Ask him for the generosity to say ‘yes!’ Do not be afraid to give yourself totally to Jesus. He will give you the grace you need to fulfill your vocation.” And that’s no joke.