'Into the Dark: Midnight Kiss' is a commentary on hook up culture, strained friendships, and gay slasher horror
This article contains spoilers for 'Midnight Kiss'.
Hulu's anthology horror 'Into the Dark' rose to immediate fame with its holiday-focused horror and satirical spins with each episode, but the latest one - 'Midnight Kiss,' strikes a balance on so many other aspects. What looks like it's about to be a massive sausage fest amidst neon lights and reckless abandon gets extremely twisted when elements of a typical slasher horror are sprinkled into the narrative. What comes out as the end product is a commentary on all things toxic about hook up culture and the unnecessary peer pressure to dive headfirst into the new year with that infamous titular midnight kiss - something that not always ends well. But even as we meander through the strained relationships within a group of gay best friends and their token straight wingwoman, the New Year-themed episode offers a much-needed discourse on the evolution of toxic bonds from the past that we cling on to because nostalgia is a pain in the ass, without getting too preachy.
The plot is pretty simple: a group of longtime gay best friends indulge in their New Year tradition of getting together and partying hard as they welcome in new hopes and dreams for yet another 365 days. In a typical slasher plot fit for those creepily cozy drive-by date nights, the group of five head to a Palm Springs mansion where surprise surprise - a masked killer has hunted them down and starts taking them out one by one. The name is a reference to a game the group plays amongst themselves where they find a stranger to ring the new year in with, and possibly hook up or whatever subsequently - but only until the sun comes up. The interesting part? While the very essence of the film is to capture the not so easygoing layers of the LGBTQ+ community, the tension, and mutual distrust is cocooned in a layer of extravagance and in general disregard for boundaries - this makes the twist in the tale slightly predictable but doesn't allow one to totally guess just how it's going to play out in favor of our leads.
Speaking of leads, the feature-length episode from director Carter Smith gives way to one of the most layered, and perforated camaraderie of characters. When the significant masked murderer is taking a break from terrorizing the group's members one by one, it is the cynical hopelessness and childish expectations for a miracle at the same time which makes the entire tale so riveting. We have Augustus Prew as the point of view anchor in the form of the artistic Cameron who is tired of his controlling yet detached ex Joel (Scott Evans), but at the same time, can't really shirk the countless possibilities of what-ifs that would have panned out had he not dumped Joel years ago. Zachary (Chester Lockhart) and Hanna (Ayden Mayeri) round up the group as the fabulous slaying gay, and the token straight friend respectively and each of them strikes out in their own quirky way.
The latest addition to their party of five on New Year's eve is Joel's fiance - Logan (Lukas Gage) who is pretty much an expository trope for viewers, asking all the right questions for us to find out just why the bond is so strained between the rest of the members. Balancing Logan's innocence and carefree-only-when-high nature are the hilarious references to countless kinks like pup-play and the coinage of the borderline crass term 'psychopath bottom' - one of the many that allow the film the scope to delve deeper into the layers of the LGBTQ+ community where despite the love they spread, sometimes grudges run deep.
When not being over the top gory with slashing necks in bathrooms or the extremely impossible aspect of the masked murderer using a velociraptor claw to take out his victims, apple rave parties take the center stage as the representative for all things flashy and fun that the group uninhibitedly engages in. There's glitter, there's neon, there's nudity and openly grinding against each other's crotch and of course - secret dungeon type places to explore each other when the humdrum of the house party gets too much to digest. The acting catalyst in the situation is probably the constant suspicion one would feel surrounding the protagonist - Cameron, even though he is a perfectly likable guy. His obsession with finding love or caving into lust - whatever it is he is looking for on dating and hook up apps is a little unsettling. But then again, there's a certain kind of comfort in marketing yourself while being separated by a screen instead of heading in organically and 'Midnight's Kiss' gets it.
What it also gets is the often deemed sweet but actually pretty nerve-racking task of finding someone to kiss as the ball drops which can sometimes makes one act crazy out of desperation. Feeling left out is a terrible thing to undergo especially in the middle of a crowd that has love and acceptance for all, and 'Midnight's Kiss' paints that picture of loneliness and self seclusion beautifully even when playing it off as a bloodthirsty killers agenda to slay the gays for all the morbid reasons.
'Into the Dark: Midnight Kiss' premieres on Friday, December 27, only on Hulu.