It’s a gay horror movie and a holiday horror movie all in one, but the 2019 New Year’s Eve installment of Hulu’s Into The Dark series isn’t quite the next Hellbent.
Coming to us from the director of the gay supernatural film Jamie Marks is Dead and a horror movie I love to hate (The Ruins), and written by the director of the gay thriller Rift and a horror movie I love to love (Child Eater), slasher Midnight Kiss focuses on gay friends hanging in a house together for New Year’s Eve and being picked off by a killer in a leather pig mask.
While the film will probably enthrall gay fans clamoring for more gay horror films, for me personally the first kill is indicative of one of my main disappointments here; kills are scarce, and most of them are uninspired and flat. At this point in time, applying a checklist of slasher clichés to a bunch of gay guys and throwing in some nice asses along the way isn’t enough (but I’m going to do that right now).
The presentation needs to impress as well: visuals, style, intensity, music score, characterization, tone, atmosphere, etc. Unfortunately, much of this film feels like just another generic slasher that misses some golden opportunities. For instance, the killer glitter bombs the opening kill victim while either filming or photographing the act—which could have been a calling card that carried through all the kills.
Instead there’s a literal calling card that seems to show up just to let us know we’re in a horror movie—a sort of “I Know What You Did Last New Year’s Eve” foreshadowing.
With plenty of gay horror movies out there at this point, we don’t need to start at square one with the most basic elements, yet Midnight Kiss is loaded with mainstream gay clichés. They may seem novel to (and expected by) a straight audience drawn to this movie because it’s the latest installment of the mainstream Into the Dark series, but for gay viewers, it’s a bit redundant. The cast of characters is white, young, pretty, and bitchy, and the seemingly necessary evil of the token female friend tagging along gives us a splash of David DeCoteau to ensure the straight audience feels the pull of heteronormative structure. Screw that. In protest, I shall post a still of the film’s brief gay sex scene.
Also, the group’s conversations are as Gay 101 as it gets. The guys are shallow, they’ve screwed around with each other enough to cause tension and drama, they talk about all their hookups on Grindr, and they break in the new guy in their group by playing their annual “midnight kiss” game when they go to a club to ring in the New Year.
The club segment feels like something out of Queer as Folk from 20 years ago, which makes me wonder—are there still gay dance clubs with sex rooms? They all closed down in New York City about 15 years ago. Anyway, this big New Year’s Eve moment is fleeting, so this isn’t as much of a holiday horror flick as you may hope for—which is in keeping with the common letdown of most Into the Dark installments. Also, there’s no kill in the club! Yet…the killer makes an appearance on the dance floor for no discernible reason, and not one pretty boy in the bunch bats an eye. If someone in a leather pig mask walked through the crowd of shirtless gym bunnies at the Roxy back in the 1990s…eh, they wouldn’t even get that far because they would be turned away at the door.
While there are a few sightings of the killer and a few murders early on, things don’t kick into high gear until about 50 minutes in after the group returns to the house. The fun begins with the most provocative and sexy death scene in the entire film. Shot with a crotch writhing in the forefront, it’s the kind of unique presentation that makes my horror senses tingle, but no other scene quite lives up to it.
Overall, it’s a mixed sack…I mean, bag. There are some good chase scenes and cat and mouse action, but there are also limited body reveals (due to the limited kills), and a lone jump scare that’s too perfectly timed to actually scare veteran horror fans. Red herring practically squirt in our eyes throughout the film, but there are some nice twists…yet they tend to be easy to guess before they’re revealed. The cast of characters is limited in variation, and most of them not likeable enough (my faves being the main guy and the girl, who gave me major Jessica Jones vibes). The killer motivation definitely speaks to a fairly universal issue that many gay men experience, but if that were reason enough to make someone a killer, most of us would be running around hacking up pretty boys.
Overall, Midnight Kiss is missing that special something that makes me watch certain slashers over and over again. It’s not even quite compelling or entertaining enough for me to get the urge to see it a second time.
Even so, there are a couple of bonuses for me. First, one couple decides they’re a perfect fit because their zodiac signs are totally compatible…and they happen to be the same signs as my hubby’s and mine! Second, other films should take note of how easy this film makes it to read on screen texts characters are sending and receiving, a major plus for blind bitches like me.