Review: I'M JUST FUCKING WITH YOU is a Wild Ride That is Equal Parts THE STRANGERS and SPRING BREAKERS

I’ve been waiting a while to see what would come of April’s exploration from Into the Dark, the collaboration between Blumhouse and Hulu exploring holidays from every month of the year. I always had a fascination with April Fools Day as a kid and although the internet has done a lot to dampen that opinion lately, it’s still a holiday that still captivates me. It’s just so odd.

As soon as the title dropped for I’m Just Fucking With You, the April entry from writers Scott Barkan and Gregg Zehentner and director Adam Mason, my interest was piqued. That’s a pretty bold proclamation. The “f word,” albeit censored, right there in the title. Then one poster and a trailer later and I’m instantly curious. Not sold, mind you, but there’s something about the neon pink and bright blues of a cheap motel room that are so aesthetically pleasing that I can’t help but love them.

This movie sucked.

APRIL FOOLS.

I had to get one in, right? Larry is an internet troll. You know the one. He hides behind his anonymity to bring people down because they’re not bold or courageous enough to do so out in the open. He’s on his way to a wedding, that we find out as the film moves on, is that of an ex that he may still have some unrequited love for. He’s staying at a seedy hotel, where he meets Chester, the eclectic and somewhat erratic front desk clerk. While waiting for his sister Rachel to arrive, Chester starts crossing the boundaries of playful pranks to menacing jokes, and once Rachel does finally show, things quickly spin out of control.

A lot of this movie is spent setting us up for the final third of the film. Sometimes, that can be problematic, and makes thing plod along or feel slow. That is not a problem here. While a large chunk of time is spent with mostly Larry and Chester, introducing a few tertiary characters like a sheriff and bad boy biker Gerry, the time is definitely not wasted. We quickly become aware of who Larry and Chester are, at a base level, but the layers slowly start peeling themselves back. Larry has some quirks that are a little odd and Chester is a bit more threatening than he appears at first glance. For every disgusted and uncomfortable situation Larry faces, Chester is there with a shit-eating grin on his face, his Thompson-esque glasses a window into his madness.

Honestly, it’s a movie that’s driven heavily by dialogue but also by the oozing, slimy charisma of Chester, played by Hayes MacArthur. The actual action of the film is few and far between but when it happens, it’s a gut punch; it’s brutal, it’s vicious, it’s raw. MacArthur somehow perfectly dances the line between enjoyable and despicable as the non-stop joke machine Chester, who feels like a California cousin to James Franco’s Alien in Spring Breakers. Both spout off nonsense philosophy but where Alien is influenced by southern friend hip hop, Chester is driven by a Groucho Marx complex to tilt his proverbial cigar and bounce his glasses after every little jab. What creates the conflict is how MacArthur, and Keir O’Donnell in turn, are able to create an atmosphere of uncomfortable tension between the two of them, usually with just body language and a laugh or an awkward handshake.

The script crafted by Barkan and Zehentner is dark humor pushed to it’s limits. They have a message behind it, something to be said for the anonymity of online and our ability to laugh at situations, but really what they’re doing here doing here is highlighting human seediness. While much of the movie feels like Spring Breakers, a beach side atmosphere that’s been given a dose of weird, it also treads into territory seen in The Strangers. Chester is pushing these people for his own twisted pleasure, even answering the question “what are you doing this?” with a maniacal laugh and an all too excited “why not!”

It’s alongside the direction Mason that the movie really finds it’s footing. It could be too dark, too depressing, a little too sleazy. Or it could be too light with things and feel like a comedy without any punchlines, instead of the dark sweat covered comedy that it is. Mason has worked on some minor projects and music videos before but it works for him. After a scene where Larry gets gassed, things go from realistically weird to absurdly abstract but it fits. Mason manages to play around with different filming techniques, from frantic erratic internet wackiness to glowing sweltering luau pool scenes, but it all works tonally. A large reason why is because of the score from Deftones front man Chino Moreno, a funk infused bass line that’s as groovy as it is foreboding.

It might not be enough for the gore hounds or torture porn fans, although it dips it's toe lightly into both areas, but I’m Just Fucking With You is a neon soaked horror comedy that as pitch black as it is smart.