Into the Dark Midnight Kiss Review

(Blumhouse Television and Hulu have partnered for a monthly horror anthology series titled Into The Dark, set to release a full holiday-themed feature the first Friday of every month. Horror anthology expert Matt Donato will be tackling the series one-by-one, stacking up the entries as they become streamable.)

Ignoring any Into The Dark rankings and ratings thus far, Blumhouse’s ability to drive representation and diversity throughout their feature-length entries is a focus to be followed. Gigi Saul Gurrerro’s Culture Shock ended up a memorable 4th Of July fireworks display of borderland terror, with such a distinct cultural perspective. In tone, presentation, and presence, Gurrerro’s voice is never stifled – just like this January’s Midnight Kiss. Carter Smith’s decisively gay New Year’s Eve slasher is scripted by a gay Hollywood screenwriter (Erlingur Thoroddsen) and directed by a gay Hollywood director (Smith). Two filmmakers who are unafraid to create in a language known within their communities – experiences resonating throughout so many daily routines – and yet desperately underserved when it comes to on-screen horror opportunities.

In the spirit of smooching another year away, a group of party-ready besties embarks on their yearly December 31st getaway. Joel (Scott Evans) once again provides his family’s isolated estate, vacant for the holiday, with plans of clubbing until midnight. Even better, they’re going to play another round of “Midnight Kiss” – an invented game where the rule is hookup freely until the next morning, no strings attached. Joel participates even though fiancé Logan (Lukas Gage) accompanies, meaning both lovers have a hall pass. Single Cameron (Augustus Prew) shows no objection, and neither does wingwoman Hannah (Ayden Mayeri) despite her “limited” options. 

Unfortunately, they’re not the only pack on the hunt this New Year’s Eve when a leather-masked killer targets the group one by one.

Enough cannot be said about Thoroddsen and Smith’s ability to revitalize the slasher subgenre given their queer-forward narrative. We’ve watched drugged-up clubbers be hunted by masked killers before, but not within these glitter-bomb parameters. We’re not subjected to a straight writer’s take on queer characters and normalities. Thoroddsen’s script remains honest in the ways relationships are depicted and drama unfolds, as characters own up to their past infidelities or the freedoms of dancefloor hookups spike jealousy. Each Into The Dark title should have its own distinct flavor, which Midnight Kiss’ molly-laced Starburst has no trouble defining.

The film’s horror template is, admittedly, a familiar stalk-and-slice brand that, as I’ve indicated, isn’t foreign to slasher fans. Smith’s killer, breathing heavily behind a zipped-up BDSM mask, murders those close to Cameron as the night progresses. Joel’s invitees receive simply typeset cards with short messages, all assuming their host is playing his own quirky game, but it turns out Mr. Killer enjoys teasing just as much as the lusty men. There are times when singled-out targets disappear or reappear to service the plot – Cameron running through a not-too-large house without any interruption  – but Smith navigates these typical genre workarounds well enough. Characters live out loud, but there are still mysteries that keep us intrigued.

Even better, the cast of Midnight Kiss sustains our interest as an airtight group with its own incestuous hangups. I’ve spent nights with friends who use the same language and display similar mannerisms, which provokes this natural acceptance within Thoroddsen’s writing. Ayden Mayeri as the womanly glue that holds together ex-lovers and tested relationships of her flamboyant “girlfriends” are such delightful additions alongside the cast of sassy, quippy drama queens. From brunch gossip to Joel’s intimacy problems, actors display an instant bond that carries throughout Smith’s countdown carnage. Evans slowly leaking instability, Prew’s once-boyfriend of Joel trying to move on, Gage’s newcomer figuring out his tribe’s dynamic – all of it.

It’s the little details of Midnight Kiss that stand out most, from a madman who tosses gaudy confetti onto bloody corpses to the single, straight female once again taking one for her team of boy-toys. There’s a balance between influencer egos, one-night-only sex parties and unfinished business in need of a recheck, somewhere between more dude buttox than a prison’s shower in the morning (gender and sexual equality in horror, finally). Smith’s gaze and vision are uniquely queer and stimulate visually, taking cameras beyond velvet ropes many horror fans have yet to venture. This, of course, is the film’s greatest weapon: telling an age-old story from a vibrant perspective long “ignored.”

Midnight Kiss is a slasher with representation on its mind, a dagger in its hand, and films like Knife + Heart on its side. A solid Into The Dark that wraps “whodunnit?” scripting in glamour, sensuality, and mistrust. As audiences wait for Carter Smith’s deadly disco ball to drop, it’s all fun and games and midriff ab reveals – an abstract view as far as genre cinema is concerned. Hopefully not for long in the hopes that Hulu’s latest is streamed by mass audiences, as Smith’s LGBT content begs a simple question. Why is it taking gay horror fans so long to see themselves on the screen, written by creators who understand them? Hopefully Midnight Kiss gets the party started so to speak.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10

Cool Posts From Around the Web: