We’ve all seen the images. The ones where we watch the shiny, pseudo-disco ball drop for the New Year and, just as the clock strikes midnight, two strangers lock eyes and kiss. Growing up, one of the most arguably romantic things I had heard about was entering the New Year with a kiss – the infamous MIDNIGHT KISS. This would signify the start of many things, but mostly starting the new year with that charged up energy that a (hopefully) welcome kiss brings. However, this idea also can fuel pressure to not ring in the new year alone, especially during a time of year where that feeling of loneliness is amplified due to societal pressures and expectations. This desperation and pressure can lead people to make questionable decisions in pursuit of that special kiss, but sometimes the end does not justify the means. This is one idea, among many, that Hulu and Blumhouse explore in the horror anthology series Into the Dark’s New Year’s themed episode aptly titled MIDNIGHT KISS.
The latest episode in the horror anthology focuses on a group of longtime gay best friends and their wing woman bestie head to Palm Springs to celebrate New Year’s Eve. The general vibe is off, with many feeling completely over the get together as relationships have become strained over the years between the friends. As the group of friends heads up to the house, they broach the topic of whether or not to continue their annual tradition of playing MIDNIGHT KISS. This game has a couple of rules, but the ultimate objective is to find that special someone to ring in the New Year with and, should things go well post-kiss, there is an option to do other things with that person afterward i.e. hook-up, canoodle, etc. However, someone connected to this group of friends is slowly murdering each individual in excruciatingly personal and painful ways and it soon becomes a race against the clock for these friends to figure out who the killer is and whether or not they will make it to 2020 alive.
To maintain the surprises that you guys will discover along the way, I’m going to be refraining from writing much else in terms of the plot. That being said, I’m going to say this may arguably be my favorite film of this current season of the Into the Dark series. A huge part of this had to do with the casting and the characters in the film. While the plot itself felt pretty standard for a slasher, the cast itself elevated the film in such a way that the cockles of my heart are warmed. Each character was memorable and, while the characters themselves were LGBTQ+, I greatly appreciated how wholly fleshed out each character was, even if a couple only had a brief time onscreen. Leaving the special screening, I distinctly remember turning to Shannon and saying, “I know every single one of those characters.” It was eerie and exciting and amazing because it was easy to either personally relate to the struggles each character was dealing with or at least be able to acknowledge I knew someone in the community who had similar experiences. To sum up the paragraph, it was just so human and real and I just appreciated the heck out of it.
Part of the humanity that this film is injected with stems from its subtle handling of certain topics and themes such as toxic relationships, hookup culture, the evolution of adult friendships, and the like. None of these themes, at least in my opinion, are shoved into anyone’s faces and I’d be surprised if anyone would call it preachy. However, through the direction in tone, the dialogue, and the acting certain topics get their moment in the light. The topic that resonated the most was toxic relationships and how our desire to not be alone has a cruel, painful ripple effect that impacts everyone around. We see this ripple effect through games like MIDNIGHT KISS, which honestly could go horribly awry if you mack up on the wrong person or misread someone’s body signals. We also see how this ripple effect impacts the group dynamics in the film as all of the characters at some point and time have been together in some capacity, which has led to strain for many. There’s just so much to digest thematically on a subtle-level that it is a bit difficult to break it down without giving much else away. Either way, the casts’ handling of real-life scenarios and situations in the film as well as Carter Smith’s direction make all of it work so abundantly well.
I would remiss though if I didn’t point out that this film is probably going to upset some viewers of the anthology series, which would be unfortunate. As I’ve observed with recent discourse surrounding certain horror films that push certain things, there’s a chance that MIDNIGHT KISS might get some pushback. Why am I mentioning this in my review? Because there might be some who say the film is pushing an agenda due to the focus on LGBTQ+ members of the community. I honestly don’t think it is. If you swapped out the characters and placed the standard hetero characters in the film, nothing would really change. The plot would play out. People will die. Killers will be unveiled, etc. The magic of the script written by Erlingur Thoroddsen and, ultimately, the film is that the story is universal across the board. We can imagine any type of person in the roles featured onscreen. If viewers who had an issue could take a step back from their own personal bias to just watch the film as is, the points I made would be clear to them.
Overall, MIDNIGHT KISS is a decent slasher that shines a necessary light on the LGBTQ+ community without diving deep into stereotypes more commonly associated with a hetero-cis P.O.V. While it may be pretty easy to pick up on whodunit halfway through the film, this film is important. The characters featured in the film are, quite honestly, similar to people I know intimately within my own day to day life having grown up immersed in the culture pre-Drag Race. It makes the film relatable to all audience members regardless of sexuality due in part to the performances provided by the cast as well as the subtle exploration of certain topics that really deserve to be discussed more outside of this film. It’s a definite must-see and, for LGBTQ+ teenagers hoping to dip their feet into the horror realm, this is a great film for you to dive into.
MIDNIGHT KISS will be available on Hulu on December 27, 2019. This means you can watch it as a lead up to 2020 and live to tell the tale.
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