Into the Dark: “Midnight Kiss” Review

With the myriad of Christmas themed horror films, New Year’s Eve so often gets overlooked.  Hulu’s holiday horror anthology, Into the Dark remedied this in 2018 with “New Year, New You”, and now they’ve done so again with “Midnight Kiss”.  While this New Year slasher does a lot for representation in the genre, ultimately it falls short in the horror department.  So let’s take a closer (spoiler free) look at “Midnight Kiss”!

Representation Without Exploitation
The film opens with a montage of New Year’s Eve countdowns to midnight, as we’re introduced to a group of friends, comprised of all gay men and one straight woman (their wingman).  For the last several  years their end of year tradition has been to get together to celebrate, only this year brings with it a psychotic killer dressed as a gimp.

As we navigate modern times, representation of different groups of people has become increasingly important to audiences and the public alike.  And, to its credit, “Midnight Kiss” does a great job of featuring protagonists who are gay, but never relegating them to cliché status, or using them as a preachy plot device.

The film treats its characters as real people with strengths and flaws. And it’s legitimately a good ensemble cast.

Rather, they are just characters who happen to be gay, and who happen to face off against a masked killer, like so many slashers before.  A few of them can be annoying at times, but that’s very much a staple of this genre.  The film understands its characters, as it slowly unveils the massive history and baggage many of them have with each other.

Long before they all realize the mortal danger they’re in, there is already a great deal of tension and betrayal as secrets come out about what some of them have done.  All of it seems to stem from a Midnight Kiss game they invented years earlier, which is essentially a free pass to cheat for the night, but inevitably yields hurt feelings.

Fails as a Slasher
The fact that this film gets its characters and representation right is all the more frustrating because of how badly it fails to be a good slasher film.  Aside from a couple brief kills earlier on (which no one discovers until the end), the actual “slashing” doesn’t start until there’s only 20 minutes left in the runtime.

It’s as if the film forgot that it was horror until the very end, then rushed everything with the killer.  Granted it spent the first 70 minutes developing its characters and revealing the tension between them, but all this still could have been done while they were dealing with the killer.  In fact, the added dread of their impending death could have even acted as a catalyst to make them more honest with each other while revealing everything.

Plus, it doesn’t even really feel like a New Year’s themed horror film, since the party they go to ends halfway through the runtime, long before they know about the killer.  It probably could have been much more tense and exciting if the killer had struck at the party itself, but instead it’s just a missed opportunity.

We know the killer was at the party, but just chose not to do anything…?

Ultimatley, “Midnight Kiss” is a decent character drama that anyone who’s ever felt jealousy or insecurity can relate to.  But if you’re looking for a slasher, or something that captures the spirit of “New Year’s Horror”, you will probably be disappointed.

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