I am a typical horror movie snob, turning my nose up at most Hollywood regurgitations of classics and so-called innovative concepts in modern horror, so impressing me with a recent or current film is often a difficult task. However, I was no less than completely refreshed and excited by Hulu’s I’m Just F*cking With You.
The movie begins by introducing Larry (Keir O’Donnell), the main character and what patriarchal society would classify as a “beta male.” He is a neat-freak and stereotypical passive aggressive male loner (read: incel vibes) with a shy demeanor and antagonistic outlook on life. Larry does not accept much accountability in himself. His most negative flaws are shown initially as you realize he is resentfully attending an ex-girlfriend’s wedding. Larry loves to hide behind his presumed weakness to be malicious and cruel in the dark. Larry is an internet troll, spewing his pain and displeasure in his life on others anonymously online. While he hides behind a facade of harmlessness, he takes great egotistical pleasure in bullying those he feels bullied him without immediate consequence. Beautifully shot and color-treated, I’m Just F*cking With You feels like a bad trip a la Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Midsommar. This slow burn has suspense, comedy and unsuspected drama worth tipping a hat to. So much of horror is repeats, but this felt incredibly fresh to me as a jaded horror viewer.
The movie dives deep into the perilous world of trolling and harassment: both online with Larry and his antics, and offline with Chester (Hayes MacArthur), an aggressive, prank-driven manager of the motel Larry happens to be staying in. Chester looks like a cartoon Miami Vice depiction with his dated wardrobe, social awkwardness, cheesy jokes, and increasingly uncomfortable sense of humor. The movie is named after Chester’s insatiable need to make a joke, even at the extreme expense of others. “I’m just fucking with you,” he says, at moments when you don’t ever want to be fucked with.
Chester represents pushing boundaries aggressively while Larry, to me, represents a passive-aggressive approach to pushing, and breaking, boundaries. They both are violent in nature, but choose different paths to get there. This movie brilliantly makes you both despise the characters, and uncomfortably and unfortunately relate to the ugly and human reaction to rejection, pain, and fear. When we are insecure, we do not always show up as the best versions of ourselves. Human beings, when push comes to shove, act like any other animal, wounded and cornered, resorting to lashing out for perceived protection. It is not always effective, safe, or necessary. Chester and Larry are symbols of the absurdist version of accepting your shadow-self in its fullness. What would any of us do at our worst? Would we be trolls? Jerks? Would we become violent?
It is a wild ride with surprising twists and turns that even a seasoned horror viewer can watch and enjoy without annoyance of predictability. It is absurd, funny, and sadistic, showcasing how human nature can be enthusiastically bitter, cruel and harmful based on internalized perspectives and insecurities. Hurt people, as the saying goes, hurt people, through Instagram troll accounts, bots, and passive-aggressive manipulations. I felt like it was welcomed specific commentary on incels, anonymous trolling, and aggressive male entitlement, that when unhinged can lead to domestic violence, mass murders, and terroristic events.
This movie is definitely a feminist film. It is feminist because it showcases how patriarchy, expectations, and limits of men can lead them to violence. Patriarchy is a prison where everyone struggles, to loosely quote my heroine, bell hooks. She’s spoken about how it affects non-men because of the lack of access or inequalities, but everyone including men because it leads to unrealistic expectations for all. The idea that the “guy is supposed to get the girl”, that masculinity is defined by body type and size, that violence and aggressive behavior are considered dominant traits. These things perpetuate chaos – in society, our lives and in film. True freedom is when those things don’t define us, but until then we will continue to see the eruptions of its damaging effects in people like Chester and Larry.
In the most outrageous sense, this movie shows the very real effects of words, their meanings and weight in society and lived experiences. It speaks to patriarchy and its damaging effects on not just women in its retaliation, but men. Although Chester and Larry are not innocent in the film in the slightest sense, they are victims – of societal pressures and expectations for manhood. The overwhelming pressure men in modern society have to be considered aggressive, attractive, and strong can drive them to dangerous extremes. The men who don’t check off the boxes in patriarchy are left to deal with society’s backlash. This horror movie snob grades I’m Just F*cking With You a solid ⅗, and suggests a viewing with a close friend or group of folks to dissect its intentions afterwards.