Knock Knock… It’s the oldest joke in the book, but still one to illicit a reaction from the person answering the door. The month of April begins with a good laugh as the first of the month commemorates our common appreciation for tricks and pranks, all conducted out of pure goodwill of course. Blumhouse’s year-long holiday anthology series, Into The Dark, turns a day of insincere humor into a menacing night of deception in its seventh episode installment, I’m Just F*cking With You. This month’s horror zinger takes on April Fool’s Day, a Pennsylvanian celebration of Taco Bell’s purchase and renaming of the Liberty Bell back in 1996.
I’m just f*cking with you! All of that is nothing close to the origins of April Fool’s Day. No one is sure where it came from, it is still a mystery surrounded by cultural speculations that range all across the world. I apologize, it was just too easy. I promise that’s my first and final joke. Here are the facts:
“[…] a perfect set up that slowly turns an unnerving situation into a deeply dark punchline.”
I’m Just F*cking With You stars Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers), Hayes MacArthur (She’s Out Of My League), and Jessica McNamee (The Meg). In honor of The Fool, April’s episode “focuses on a man and his sister who endure a night of increasingly frightening practical jokes during a stay at a secluded motel.” While it seems like a simple plot line on the surface, there are so many factors worthy of highlighting.
Writers Gregg Zehentner and Scott Barkan (Edge of Fear) create a rollercoaster of laughs, but ultimately know when to refine their focus and put all jokes aside. Director Adam Mason (Hangman) heightens the essential elements of filmmaking while executing a perfect set up that slowly turns an unnerving situation into a deeply dark punchline. Brandishing an enormous middle finger to our expectations, I’m I’m Just F*cking With You has particularly special “XYZ” factors.
On the way to a “family” wedding, Larry finds himself in a slightly uncomfortable situation: #CindyAndMarksWedding is going to be anything but a happily ever after for him as the bride is his ex-girlfriend and the groom is his cousin. Ouch. Watching Cindy’s every jubilant move on social media builds a hidden, twisted resentment within Larry that is manifested through his anonymous social media account that he uses to also leave hurtful, hateful comments on all of her pictures and the posts of others.
O’Donnell flawlessly portrays a cynical, bitter little man with no sense of humor. To be honest, he’s a bit of an asshole. While we sympathize with him for his heartbreak, on the outside Larry is a mild-mannered “Average Joe” but a germaphobe full of self loathing on the inside. Utilizing heavy verbiage filled with foul language, the main character of I’m Just F*cking With You proves to be the most loathsome trickster of them all: a troll.
“Viewers are constantly challenged to figure out which troll is the real monster […] reveling in the glory of the last laugh.”
Chester, named similarly to a classic court jester, is a serial prankster akin to Norman Bates and The Joker running a seedy joint, The Pink Motel, out in the California desert. MacArthur is equal parts charismatic and terrifyingly irritating as he greets Larry with a false confrontation and a strangely sincere smile. Like Larry, Chester earns some sympathy from viewers at times. He’s looking to others for a connection and is always up for a good time. Chester is simply just a weird, lonely guy. However, every other sentence is a joke and the ones in between shouldn’t be taken seriously. He’s that guy, the purveyor of jokes aptly giving reason to the title of I‘m Just F*cking With You, but he’s not fucked up at all… or is he?
When these two archetypes, the joker and the asshole, clash, the pattern of humiliation is practically unstoppable… and deadly. Gullibility is replaced with paranoia as the humiliated becomes the humiliator. When it comes to funny business, these two take it to the extreme limit as their ways and tactics of trolling those around them become modernized focal points of Zehentner and Barkan’s smoothly driven character development. Larry trolls in secret while Chester is outright and upfront with his antics. Though we are given the initial notion that Larry is the protagonist and Chester will act as the villain, the ongoing element of surprise turns out more than one troll in this twofold gag. Viewers are constantly challenged to figure out which troll is the real monster of I‘m Just F*cking With You, reveling in the glory of the last laugh.
Yanks of Color and Sounds
Larry and Chester are two characters who partake in an odd game of tit-for-tat as the evening unfolds and Chester’s teasing goes from typical to terrorizing. Motives begin lighthearted and funny, but quickly turn dark as the juxtaposition of color and sound almost manifest on the screen. The Pink motel, is set as a lone spot in the middle of the desert, but is saturated in bright, glowing color. The cheap, dingy setting is brought to life by a modern palette and smart use of light, two of the primary background characters of I‘m Just F*cking With You.
Groovy neon splashes of hot pink, magenta, electric blue, lime green, faded purple, and stark red emit a groovy vibe charging an over-the-top tropic atmosphere screaming “Fun!” and “Warning!” at the same time. The playful colors are in strict contrast from the horror that will reside within the motel, but reflect flamboyant red flags and adjust as the mood of humor between Larry and Chester changes from mutual to toxic.
“Groovy neon splashes […] emit a groovy vibe charging an over-the-top tropic atmosphere screaming ‘Fun!’ and ‘Warning!’ at the same time.”
Putting the ‘sike’ in ‘psychedelic’, Deftones’ vocalist and guitarist Chino Moreno scores the episode with clips of funky, retro beats. Tempering the scenes with a mix of 70’s synth, disco, and even SoCal rap, Moreno breaks from the usual moody, atmospheric lulls and long, low melodic pulls. He provides I‘m Just F*cking With You with a quirky sense of sound expertly attuned to character distinctions.
Chester’s actions are accompanied by peculiar sound bites including the fleeting screech of an eagle and the sharp sitcom gleam of a wink, depending on the situation. Toploader’s feel good song ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ ignites a Hawaiian luau from Hell as the monster seemingly prevails and the truly heinous scenarios take over the third act. Mason and Moreno’s harmonious collaboration creates a unique, inviting environment, tricking viewers into “feelin’ warm and bright” while raising a cheers “to the beautiful sound of laughter”.
It’s all fun and games until someone calls the cops. Turning the motel into a fun house of verbal and physical pranks, Chester manages to always take his moves one step too far, getting carried away in an eventual spin of sinister amusement. Some of his jokes hit below the belt, some are purposeful cheesy one-liners, all are strange shenanigans used as April Fool’s Day devices and modes of terror. In his twisted, wicked lesson of karma, comedy, payback, and Newton’s Third Law (For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction), what Chester finds to be funny may cause others to be disgusted and potentially pissed. I see each of his actions as an act of horror, successfully causing an appropriate reaction to all of his morbid mechanics.
You know what happens “if you give a moose a cookie”, right? Perfect timing is essential to any well conducted prank the same way that pacing is a key component to the moving plot of I’m Just F*cking With You. Every second builds in tension and expertly placed comic relief solidifies the episode’s sequential stability, never taking the comedy too far all the while maintaining the spotlight ironically fixed on humor. Just when we think it’s over, it’s not. When we are sure it’s over, it goes one more step the way our jester relentlessly teases and tricks. The timing and build of distrust is done so well it’s hard to distinguish fact from fiction. You’re slowly duped into a progression of practical jokes, red herrings, and false intentions that it’s almost impossible to guess what Chester’s real motives are… as well as Larry’s. It’s a fascinating technique and secret strength, easily the episode’s best prank on the viewer.
“Every second builds in tension and expertly placed comic relief solidifies the episode’s sequential stability, never taking the comedy too far…”
It’s a battle of the wits when Chester and Larry finally duke it out, each knowing the real victory is to have the last laugh. That’s how the loser wins in the end, after all. Through all of the episode’s shenanigans, it’s important to wait for the final punchline, as I’m Just F*cking With You comes to one hell of a wicked dead end. Literally. Larry has been dead the entire time.
Come on, I’m totally f*cking with you! That’s not how this story really ends, I just had to pull one last fast one on you for the sake of The Fool. Now that your sense of humor is primed for poking, it’s time for the truth: Into The Dark’s April episode, I’m Just F*cking With You, is available to stream exclusively on Hulu right now!
Do you plan to stream I‘m Just F*cking With You? How do you think it will end? Share your thoughts on Into The Dark’s April episode over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!