Lessons From Gay Horror Filmmakers

If you don’t believe representation in horror cinema matters, go watch Horror Noire: A History Of Black Horror. Despite countless walks of life stamping this vibrant earth with their signature footprints, movies – especially mainstream studio products – are largely populated by the same faces, genders, you name it. More importantly, when themes or characters step outside “normality,” creatives in charge generally aren’t living what they’re shooting. None of this is to suggest such situations are automatic failures – they aren’t – but authenticity and representation matters. Seeing your likeness on screen is one thing, but seeing yourself depicted in a connective way is a freedom everyone should be granted.

Enter Into The Dark’s Midnight Kiss, an enthusiastic gay slasher focusing on a homosexually-centered New Year’s nightmare. Written by Erlingur Thoroddsen, a proudly gay Hollywood writer, and directed by Carter Smith, an equally in-touch gay Hollywood director. While this shouldn’t be groundbreaking or noteworthy, one has to respect Hulu and Blumhouse for buying into an exclusively gay horror feature without restriction. This showing of commitment means something to so many viewers, which is why I wanted to ask both Smith and Thoroddsen about navigating Hollywood from a queer perspective. Here are some lessons they’ve learned while making death sexy and horror fabulous.

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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.

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Into the Dark A Nasty Piece of Work 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.)

Charles Hood, who’s been somewhat silent since his hilarious Night Owls, accepts Christmas damnation duty for Into The Dark’s second season. A Nasty Piece Of Work tunes into the director’s comedic frequencies, based on a corporate satire scripted by Paul Soter. While last year’s Pooka! hugged consumerism into submission, this holiday season is a challenge of professional greed. A CEO’s mansion halls are decked out in festive decor (lights, garland, etc.), as the holiday season is exploited by sinful company partying. Never as dangerous or deranged as Julian Sands’ tyrannical performance suggest, “nasty” might be an overstretch for this piece of December work.

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into the dark pilgrim trailer

(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.)

As a preacher of the good holiday horror word, Thanksgiving’s scant offerings leave my stomach rumbling. Last season’s November Into The Dark analysis began similarly; me lamenting over how Turkey Day has largely been ignored by genre filmmakers. Into The Dark’s Flesh & Blood popped out the oven dry and flavorless, but Marcus Dunstan’s Pilgrim charts a course for redemption. Guess that’s what happens when the minds behind multiple Saw sequels, three Feast flicks, and The Collector franchise take cosplaying to a disturbingly enraged level.

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into the dark pilgrim trailer

Horror movies built around holidays are a time-honored tradition, from Black Christmas to Halloween to My Bloody Valentine, and beyond. But one holiday that is often overlooked in the genre is Thanksgiving, which can lay claim to terrible trash like Thankskilling and not much else. Enter Into the Dark, the Hulu horror anthology series from Blumhouse. The next installment, Pilgrim, is Thanksgiving themed to the max – it even includes killer pilgrims. So if you’ve been hungry for Thanksgiving horror, this might be enough to satiate you. Watch the Into the Dark: Pilgrim trailer below.

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Uncanny Annie 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.)

Welcome back, Into The Dark fans! Paul Davis directed Season 1’s inaugural October entry The Body, and he’s back to play a most wicked game in Season 2’s kickoff Uncanny Annie. A bit of tabletop terror on Halloween night that tricks us with an unexpected holiday plotline, but it’s all macabre flavored treats. Suckers for rules to live by in horror scenarios will remember “Uncanny Annie” and her stacked deck of “Truths” or “Mischief,” starting Season 2 with a bit more zip this time around.

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Into the Dark Pure 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.)

Into The Dark’s inaugural season concludes with a whimper in Hannah Macpherson’s Pure. August stole September’s “Back To School” relevance, which leaves Macpherson with a claws-out gender battle rooted in religious servitude. The issue is, Macpherson reveals her film’s hand and chucks the same cards our way until credits roll. What feels like a short film idea is elongated into a ninety-minute streaming feature, and we’re right back experiencing the same elongation issues Into The Dark hasn’t been able to overcome since “episode” numero uno. Not a promising end-note with Season 2 on the horizon.

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into the dark season 2

Hulu is staying in the horror anthology business. The streaming service has renewed Into the Dark for a second season, keeping the monthly horror show rolling into 2020.

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Into the Dark School Spirit 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.)

After scoring exemplary marks with last month’s Culture Shock “episode,” Into The Dark returns to its less memorable form in School Spirit. Mike Gan’s tribute to I Know What You Did Last Summer era high school slashers may earn a passing grade by certain standards, but brings nothing new to an outdated subgenre conversation. Reformat existing horror architectures all you want, but there’s not much “spirit” within rudimentary “101 Level” storytelling horror fans have studied ad nauseam. A little Breakfast Club, a lotta Scream, but Blumhouse’s deadly detention sentence capitalizes not on a pirate killer far less interesting than a sinister Act III suggests.

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Culture Shock 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.)

Cue the celebratory fireworks and break out grandma’s potato salad recipe, because Gigi Saul Guerrero’s Culture Shock takes advantage of Into The Dark’s full conceptual potential. Her July 4th treatment has been earning praise from critics and festival audiences as the franchise’s most accomplished title to date, which it certainly is. Guerrero’s American-bred nightmare vaults over March’s Treehouse as my favorite Into The Dark tale yet, brimming with patriotic anxiety and tragic relevance. Life inspires art in an explosive display of hatred under the guise of nationalism, drawing inspiration from the most obvious places: our backyards. 

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