Welcome to Film Swappers, where Chris and Branden force the other person to watch any movie of their choosing. The only rules are that the films chosen have to be ones that the other person hasn’t already seen, and they must be watched and reviewed.
Film Swappers #5
The Girl Next Door (2007) and April Fool’s Day (1986)
The Girl Next Door is another film that I’d never heard of, and one I would have just passed over like most “horror” titles on Netflix. This was nothing like what I was expecting and I wouldn’t even call it a horror film, or torture porn, even though it offers many similar ideas.
Summary of Film
The Girl Next Door (based on the Jack Ketchum novel of the same name) follows the story of two recently orphaned sisters who go to live with their aunt. One of the sisters, Meg, does not get along well with her aunt, and this eventually leads to her enduring unspeakable torture and abuse. The film is based on a true story, one I read about after viewing the movie, and despite taking place in the 1950s, it strikes to the heart of the bullying situation many kids go through these days, although a lot more extreme and bit more personal.
The abuse the older sister goes through in The Girl Next Door is downright disturbing, especially when you factor in that the abuse is from family members. The cutting, the threats, and the using of a handicapped sister as an additional means of abuse; it’s sickening. The addition of the young boys makes this even worse.
The acting is so straightforward and natural that you almost forget that this is a narrative film and not a documentary. The kids come off as soulless bastards and the aunt is just flat out cold. The director shows you just enough abuse and then lets us turn away, knowing that the viewer probably can’t handle anymore. In one scene, the girl is branded, and the director cuts, at the climax, to an outdoor shot of a sunny day, a picture perfect American house with a flag blowing in the wind. How can such evil happen in such a peaceful looking place?
I can’t say I enjoyed the film. I wanted to stop watching. I wanted to look away, and in the end, I wanted it to end differently, but that isn’t how life goes, is it? I went into The Girl Next Door expecting a horror film – maybe even a little torture porn – but I got something entirely different that left me thinking well after the credits rolled. I wouldn’t say I’d recommend this, but if it piques your interest, give it a shot. It’s a rather well done film, just be prepared for the disturbing images you will have to endure.
I’ve had April Fool’s Day in my possession for quite a while before viewing it. I actually ended up picking up the original and the remake years ago, but never got around to either. When Chris told me that the movie was expiring on Netflix on April 1st, he made it my pick for this article. Though I missed it there, Comcast has it on the FearNET HD section right now, along with the remake, so I was able to view it. I was excited to get into it as I’d heard positive things.
Summary of Film
April Fool’s Day is an ‘80s slasher through and through. A group of nine friends gather at a rich friend’s house, located on a remote island, for a weekend of partying, and celebrating the April Fool’s holiday. After some drinking, members of the group begin to disappear, and eventually show up dead. As the weekend continues, more and more teens are killed, and the whodunit hunt is on.
April Fool’s Day, much like My Bloody Valentine, is an ‘80s slasher that I wish I’d gotten to sooner because it’s incredibly solid. The best part of the movie, besides how out of left field the whole thing is, has to be the kills. Each one is special and the effects are wonderfully convincing. This is the same reason I liked My Bloody Valentine so much, and definitely helps set both films toward the top of the heap of the ‘80s slasher pool.
With so many characters in a slasher film, one might expect the characters to be horribly underdeveloped. The opposite is true with April Fool’s Day. The script sets up each character well, and then gives us enough time with each one so that we can easily tell their unique personalities apart. I find most of the characters genuinely likable, which means that I care if they survive, and cheer for them to pull it out in the end. This is an element that is lacking in many of the lesser-known ‘80s slasher films.
The final minutes have definitely gotten the film a number of detractors, and though I can’t say I love the final act of the film, it sure is unforgettable. I admire that the director decided to take the story in such a direction. I have since read about an alternate ending to the film, which would have been interesting to see. (Speaking of useless trivia I learned after watching this movie, read about one of the stars of the movie, and why, if you believe unconfirmed rumors, the alternate ending wasn’t used, Griffin O’Neal’s story here).
April Fool’s Day is a fun slasher film that will likely leave viewers guessing even through the end credits. If you still have the opportunity to check it out On Demand, I’d definitely recommend it to horror and slasher fans.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.