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THE DEATH OF APRIL (2022)

Directed by Ruben Rodriguez
Written by Ruben Rodriguez
Starring Katarina Hughes, Adam Lowder, Chelsea Clark, Travis Peters, Stephanie Domini Ehlert, Amy Rutledge, RayMartell Moore

THE DEATH OF APRIL is more reminiscent of the excellent mockumentary LAKE MUNGO (reviewed here), though aspects of this film do feel like found footage and the film itself is made up of footage of a video diary found by police on a laptop. Still, there are those who will write this one off simply because it is filmed in a more handheld, first person POV, talking to the camera style which many find immediately off putting.

But doing so would definitely be a mistake, as THE DEATH OF APRIL feels much more like a “Dateline NBC” episode, crafted to build interest and tension, than anything else. The film is interspersed with interviews with the family of Meagan Mullen, a young bright-eyed girl who moved from her home on the West Coast to New Jersey for a change and to follow her dreams. But right off the bat, as Meagan begins filming an online journal reporting her adjustment to her new apartment and new life, things seem to be slightly off.

Though there is the occasional blip in the video or a weird shadowy movement in the corner, for the most part the first forty minutes is all build up with the family talking in foreboding tones about Meagan in the past tense, suggesting that their relationship with her is gone. Whether that means Meagan is dead or what is unclear and remains a mystery throughout the entire movie, as the audience is made privy to her journal entries one at a time. A sparkly-eyed twentysomething with the whole world ahead of her disintegrates into a paranoid soul obsessed with the story of the apartment’s past resident named April, who was killed in her apartment mysteriously. As the strange happenings intensify and the family’s stories get more emotional and remorseful, it’s evident something dire is going to happen.
What works in THE DEATH OF APRIL is the ever-growing sense of dread and horror that begins slowly at the beginning but enlarges to an immense weight by the end of the film. The film will definitely keep you guessing, hoping for the best for this likable young girl, but fearing that all signs point to things getting horribly worse.

The problem is that because of the buildup, the final scenes lacked the heft I was expecting, and while there are some amazingly tense and frightening scenes speckled throughout the film, the end feels a bit lackluster by comparison. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the simplistic way things end up left me wanting.

That said, both Katarina Hughes (who plays Meagan) and Adam Lowder who plays her brother Stephen, and who looks a lot like a young Christopher Reeve, do phenomenal jobs in this film. Hughes makes you like her immediately when she appears in front of the screen as Meagan, and the concern she causes her brother is resonant through the eyes of Lowder. The rest of the cast is pretty good as well, and because of these performances, the film is all the more naturalistic and convincing.

Though the ending didn’t blow me away, I have to give it up for THE DEATH OF APRIL. The overall sense of horror that begins small and grows to massive proportions is doled out in a conservative, yet ever increasing manner. Writer/director Ruben Rodriguez proves he is a patient director who painstakingly holds back on the punch, yet hints that the blow could come from almost anywhere. Because this indistinguishable sense of danger looming in the dark corners of Meagan’s apartment is so well realized, it makes up for the letdown by the end. If you’re looking for a movie that will creep up on you and stick with you, THE DEATH OF APRIL is it.

Check out the trailer here!!