Oh, 2020. You devilish, conniving little sneak, you. You provided so much turmoil, didn’t you? How little we all knew as we toasted you into existence nearly a year ago. Hopefully, you had a better transition into this year compared to what was to come. There’s a group of characters in a certain film whose transition was not so swell and, looking back, I feel sort of bad that their descent into 2020 started off on a most horrible foot. Those unfortunate souls rang in the new year in Blumhouse and Hulu’s Into The Dark: Midnight Kiss.
On the eve of 2020, a group of friends gather at their traditional – 7 years and counting – annual meeting place for drinks, debauchery, and togetherness. Unbeknownst to them, someone has intertwined into their circle with a plot of revenge so petty that it escapes all of them. You see, petty revenge is a blind spot to this group of individuals who used a game called “Midnight Kiss” to search out and kiss a person at the stroke of midnight. Whether they decide to bring their kiss home for the night is up to them, but they must be dismissed before sunrise. A victim of their annual game took this to heart, and having not made it past the initial kiss, has returned for that ultimate revenge.
“…mandatory New Year’s Eve cinema.”
Oof, the queer toxicity that resides in this film. It’s obvious that writer Erlingur Thoroddsen knew exactly the shenanigans that go on within queer circles, specifically, white, male queer circles. I would question the acts that occur within the film, but I don’t have to. I’ve experienced them myself from both sides. I’ve been the culprit of petty games, and I’ve been the pawn in those same games.
This is what resonates with Midnight Kiss. It’s genuine stuff. Granted, it’s petty and it’s almost superficial and it all goes down in a soap opera flare. While the acts that this group of friends commit seems innocent upon first glance, they truly aren’t. The antagonist in the film explains this very well in a typical slasher final monologue. But let’s rewind for a moment.
There are many aspects of this group of friends that Thoroddsen also got correct. The main aspect being that they are each others’ chosen family. Some may see each character as stereotypes, but all the right ingredients for a queer group are there. They’re (mostly) loyal to each other. They’re aware of what makes each other happy and what irritates them. The entire group is “incestual” in the sense that most of them have slept with the other including Hannah (Ayden Mayeri).
Speaking of Hannah, she’s an integral part of the group. She’s the sole heterosexual, yet she’s not portrayed as just a side character. During a moment in the club scene, she expresses to our main character of the group, Cameron (Augustus Prew), that none of them reciprocates her constantly catering to them by going to gay bars and clubs by going to a straight bar to play wingman to her as she searches out for her nightly conquest. This small moment in a film meant to be solely queer was quite genuine. It represents that straight girl who caters to her queer friends, but never gets the same respect in return.
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“it’s petty and it’s almost superficial and it all goes down in a soap opera flare.”
Now, let’s revert to the toxicity that resides in the film. It’s casual, as it exists within most queer circles. It goes unnoticed by the entire group but in the end, it comes back to bite them in the ass. While it’s melodramatic and done for cinematic sake, it resonates. The antagonist, found in Logan (Lukas Gage), who has found his way into the group by wooing Joel (Scott Evans) to the point of becoming his fiance. Logan’s motive is during the gang’s first game of Midnight Kiss, he was Cameron’s kiss. That’s all that it was, a kiss. This struck Logan in the wrong way as he wasn’t out yet, and having been kissed by someone he found attractive was a first. But to be instantly brushed aside was a hit against his persona. It didn’t stick well.
As I said, the film’s motives are melodramatic, and the fact that Logan took this moment which was seemingly innocent to Cameron as such a blow to his ego is a bit much. But it happens! Granted, intruding amongst the group of friends seven years later just to be able to slice and dice through them most likely wouldn’t happen in the real world either.
I believe Thoroddsen’s goal was to show how this kind of behavior is toxic, and how it can have repercussions that aren’t initially obvious. Queer people, especially at the beginning of the explorations of their sexuality, are fragile and naive. That fragility and naivety are expressed through Logan at the nth degree, and are the catalyst for the slasher aspect of the film.
It doesn’t excuse Logan’s acts of brutality amongst the group of friends, though. Killing people is just inexcusable. What it did bring about was the good parts of the group opposed to the bad parts of the group. Joel, who used to date Cameron, is a side murderer in the film as he suffocates the present night’s Midnight Kiss recipient of Cameron’s out of a jealous rage. Throughout the film, Joel is portrayed as a controlling and jealous individual. Sort of fun to look back and see that it was the narcissistic person that killer Logan decided to use to make his way in.
“…the film’s motives are melodramatic […] but it happens!”
Joel’s inclusion into the toxicity of this group was necessary for the story’s representation of its characters. It better helps differentiate between those among the group whose intentions are pure and whose intentions are toxic. The purest of the group are Cameron and Hannah. It’s almost drilled into our psyches how good these two are, but they’re needed to connect to the shenanigans going on throughout the film.
Cameron is our final boy. He’s inclusive. He cares for his friends. He had a chance to escape the shenanigans going on, but he returned to the house to protect his friends. He even attempts to sympathize with Logan during his antagonist monologue. He’s everything that we look for in a protagonist in a slasher film. He also is the mirror opposite of the usual final survivor trope by being what every young, queer individual is by being sexually active. drinking, doing drugs, and doesn’t go through a discovery of finding out who he is. He already knows, and this is his strength. That is what gets him to the final moments of the film.
I talked about the correlation between pure and toxic characters in the film, and the results from both sides are what makes Midnight Kiss a genuine queer film. It has its melodrama and silly plot holes that any good ol’ slasher film has. It also has strong queer characters and a strong female character who are highly aware of themselves.
I’m going to be honest. My first viewing of Midnight Kiss, last year, yielded the thought that it was just another by-the-numbers slasher. With a rewatch, I was able to engage with the characters, and pick out all of their little eccentricities to determine who was toxic and who was pure (in heart). While I still stand by the slasher bits still being by the numbers (with the exception of one gag-worthy kill), I appreciate the writing for the characters a ton more.
“With a rewatch, I was able to engage with the characters, and pick out all of their little eccentricities…”
Midnight Kiss will now be mandatory New Year’s Eve cinema. While the scenes of the friends being friends, club-hopping, and general New Year’s merriment won’t be the case for most of us this New Year’s, at least we can partake in this group of queer friends’ celebrations. And then, yanno, as horror fans, enjoy their stalk and slash moments, as well.
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