If there is a holiday that grounds itself in mystery, it is New Year’s Eve. The questions about the future, in both near and far sight, are countless: What will happen tonight? How will I feel a year from now? What will the new year bring? Fans of the genre over any general period of time can easily see the correlations between the decades of the past and the ongoing, evolving trends of films as well as the similar questions that enter our mind come each new year.
Blumhouse and Hulu’s holiday horror-themed anthology series, Into The Dark, has returned to constitute both modern horror film topics as well as relevant real-world issues in bite-size streaming episodes. Serving queer horror representation and modernizing a formula from the 70’s and 80’s, January’s episode is the epitome of new needed to ring in 2020 horror. Directed by Carter Smith (The Ruins) and written by Erlingur Thoroddsen (Rift), Midnight Kiss leaves precognitive notions about slashers behind and moves forward with a new wave of the blade on screen.
“Midnight Kiss leaves precognitive notions about slashers behind and moves forward with a new wave of the blade on screen.”
Starring Augustus Prew (The Morning Show), Scott Evans (Grace And Frankie), Ayden Mayeri (Veep), Lukas Gage (Euphoria), Adam Faison (Daphne & Velma), and guest starring actor and singer, Chester Lockhart (Glamorous), Midnight Kiss kicks off 2020 with “A group of longtime gay best friends and their resident fruit fly as they head to a beautiful desert home to celebrate New Year’s Eve. One of their annual traditions is to play a game called “Midnight Kiss”, a sexy but ultimately dangerous challenge to find that special someone to help you ring in the New Year.
As friendships have grown strained with secrets, jealousy and resentment, the group faces another challenge when a sadistic killer wants in on the game. Relationships are put to the test and truths are revealed as the night turns into a fight for survival. Writing its own rules and breaking them with gusto, Midnight Kiss is an engaging slasher love note filled with both deadly repercussions and brave, necessary horror hope.
Never Forget Me
The slasher sub-genre is, perhaps, one of the most difficult categories to define. Notwithstanding substantial criteria and particular standards, slashers have been one of the most adaptable versions of terror with countless faces, and masks, attached to the popular title. With a sub-genre branded with “exploitation” by blinded criticism and ignorant viewing, slashers have found a curious niche in queer horror all their own. Midnight Kiss does not forget the mechanics of a typical slasher story, adapting common practices with glossy, intentional edge, and turns out a classic format made for modern audiences with safe care, precision, and plenty of fireworks.
Keeping and respecting the basics, Midnight Kiss is a blunt, but thrilling slasher that evokes the faint memory of Scream combined with the relevant content of Knife + Heart. The formulaic plot grinds against traditional red herrings, an expected consecutive body count, and intense slayings. Antagonistic gameplay between the characters keeps viewers guessing and fulfills a satisfying shock factor with graphic visuals and brutal kills. A drastic turn of events brings the third act to reach an interesting climax as the unexpected refreshes an otherwise typical main event. While the big reveal may fall a little flat, given a certain level of slasher comprehension (and deductive reasoning), the narrative does its best not to give much away. Shifting focus to the dynamics of the characters over their actions towards one another, it ultimately faces the true menace head-on, come the end. If there was ever a doubt about whether or not the slasher sub-genre was still raging, Midnight Kiss presses lips and breathes life right back into it with seamless, delicious pleasure.
Be My Midnight Kiss
Pumping with electric charisma, Midnight Kiss is a party mix bag of visual treats (more on that later), controlled style, and authentic performances. Smith’s direction produces appropriate angles and intense shots, adding a kiss of original perspective to the age-old content of a slasher narrative. Music and color are each special factors that really make the setting of New Year’s eve really pop in this episode. Draped in fabulous neon shades, sparkling confetti, and luxe costume design (Hannah’s tassel jacket is to-die-for), Midnight Kiss is a bright rush into the new era of slashers. The visuals are not over the top by way of aesthetics but are pleasantly on display to encourage a transitional eye from the typical expectations of a gory house-set slasher to something far more fun and appealing.
Between shared albums, itineraries, playlists, and aggravation, one of the most stand-out effects of Midnight Kiss is found within the group of friends and the individual characters that make it up. The dialogue is genuine and dynamic, consistently piling on authentic mannerisms and behaviors to the evolving playfulness and resentment building between the characters. The emotions throughout, but more specifically in the third act, really grab for viewer engagement and come through each actor in commendable fashion. Their characters’ inner relations and history break the rules and throw away common tropes all the while instilling contemporary reality. Midnight Kiss uses its characters to drive home the annual notion of “out with the old, in with the new” and proudly confirms that change is coming not only to slashers but to the larger genre masses.
Similar to the exciting holiday it represents, Midnight Kiss is a magnetic presence in the Into The Dark world of relevant, modern horror. Midnight Kiss not only pays attention to all character perspectives tempered with hidden feelings, whether they be of a positive or negative nature, it currently exposes itself to be one of the most daring and topical episodes of the series yet. Portraying sexuality, jealousy, resentment, control, loneliness, and all the feelings in between, Midnight Kiss first and foremost respects the range of representation taking place on screen. It is an important installment, not only because it brings new character substance to the genre, but it does so with unmasked, authentic intent and bittersweet action. While most of the narrative’s focus hinges on cold-blooded murder and lukewarm emotions, Midnight Kiss is by far, and happily, the most sexiest Into The Dark installment. The leather masked slasher, flashes of below-the-belt nudity, and hot ventures into edgy sex scenes give this episode a fearless sense of newness.
It may not be the most mysterious story of the series, but it sure is the most daring. Midnight Kiss is unafraid and unapologetic when it comes to representing queer horror, exactly as it should be. Though the nudity is appreciated, it’s not strictly used for gratuitous purposes. This episode invites us to take a closer look at the relationships we develop, the strangers we encounter, the social contexts of our connections, and to look beyond our individual immediate vision. Through the blood and glittery confetti, Midnight Kiss allows us to really see what the New Year’s horizon looks like for the horror genre and, from what I can see, it’s really damn beautiful.
“If there was ever a doubt about whether or not the slasher sub-genre was still raging, Midnight Kiss presses lips and breathes life right back into it with seamless, delicious pleasure.”
Are you watching the second season of Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into The Dark anthology series? What do you think of January’s episode, Midnight Kiss? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!