It happens every year. The existential dread as the first of April approaches. That dreaded holiday that shouldn’t be a holiday – April Fool’s Day. For the sane people who use it to promote light-hearted fun, it is a time to make really silly jokes. For others, though, they use it as an opportunity to be cruel. You have those people who ask out people as a joke or those who threaten to do something and then brush it off as sheer fuckery. There’s always some asshole that takes it too far. This is what Hulu and Blumhouse aim to explore in the horror anthology series INTO THE DARK’s April Fool’s Day themed episode titled I’M JUST F*CKING WITH YOU.
The episode surrounds a seemingly quiet and polite man (Keir O’Donnell) who is traveling to a secluded motel the night before a wedding he has been invited to attend. The kicker is that he will be watching what appears to be his ex marrying his first cousin. Needless to say, it doesn’t take us long to figure out though that he is definitely not someone we should sympathize with as we watch him engage in shitty, troll-like behavior as his outlet to get his negative emotions out on the way to the motel. He is supposed to meet his sister (Jessica McNamee), but things take a weird turn before she even arrives when he meets Chester (Hayes MacArthur), a seemingly harmless, but asshole-ish prankster who is way too invested in April Fool’s Day for anyone’s liking.
I’m going to try to keep things spoiler-free, so I will refrain from going deeper into the plot because it will ruin the mystique and the quality tension building that this episode delivers on. I have to commend writers Gregg Zehenter (Dawn of the Friend, Edge of Fear) and Scott Barkan (Dawn of the Friend, Edge of Fear) for creating a fairly well-paced script that ramps up the tension in such a steady fashion. Director Adam Mason handles the script with finesse, diving deep into what he is given to execute a film that leaves the audience hyped to see what happens next. With a slasher-style flick that delivers heavy on the psychological up to the halfway point of the film, the audience is definitely led to pick a side due to how the leading character is written and how he interacts with Chester. Throw in the stellar performances by all involved, especially Hayes MacArthur who really kills it with his portrayal of prank-loving Chester, and I think fans of horror may actually like this latest installment.
Like the majority of the INTO THE DARK film installments, I’M JUST F*CKING WITH YOU carries its weight in themes. However, compared to previous installments, the theming is definitely not as in your face compared to say the last installment, Treehouse. As we see Chester repeatedly fucking around with O’Donnell’s character, we slowly begin to see the merging of his online troll persona into the persona he presents offline. We see an embrace of his real nature rather than the facade he presents because he wants people to like him and it truly isn’t until that moment that we can truly relate to him. This leads me to believe that the thing we should take away from this episode is what do we present to the outside world and what are we hiding or willing to forgive once our masks are taken off.
Overall, I’M JUST F*CKING WITH YOU is arguably one of the better additions to the INTO THE DARK anthology in terms of tone, pacing, and leaving you guessing what the outcome will be of the film until the very end. I think what may ultimately ding the film is generally how unlikeable all of the characters are in this installment, but I think that helped further amplify the tension because you weren’t sure which way a character’s path would go. There was no relying on tropes, so we were kept guessing. Stick around for the end credits because there are some nice little moments while the credits roll.
The new April Fool’s themed episode I’M JUST F*CKING WITH YOU launches on Hulu today!