The anthology format is nothing new to television, with perhaps the most famous example being the original “The Twilight Zone”, which Netflix’s “Black Mirror” closely resembles in a modern setting. The format for these series are usually very simple: Tell the best story you can in 30 minutes to an hour, without having to rely on any prior continuity.
Hulu’s “Into the Dark” horror series, produced in partnership with Blumhouse, takes a different approach. Rather than stick to the traditional options of 30 minutes or hourlong episodes popularized by TV, “Into the Dark” treats each of its episodes as if they were there own standalone films that are about an hour and a half long, a move that works brilliantly for streaming and allows each “episode” to stand on its own. As such, I am reviewing “Season 2” Episode 4: “Midnight Kiss” as if it were its own film, rather than an episode of TV, because it was constructed and presented as such.
“Midnight Kiss” follows a group of mostly gay friends who unite every year to celebrate New Year’s together, in which they play a hookup game to find someone special to ring in the new year. But this year, people start to be murdered by some guy wearing a mask.
We see the story through the eyes of Cameron (Augustus Prew), the ex-boyfriend of Joel (Scott Evans), who has been recently engaged to Logan (Lukas Gage) and who hosts the annual get-together. They are accompanied by their straight best friend Hannah (Ayden Mayeri) and later by their friend Zachary (Chester Lockhart), and they spend a good third of the film catching up and just hanging out. I appreciate how the film took its time building up its characters, as Cameron, Hannah, Joel and Logan all have distinct personalities that work well off of each other for the most part, and elevate the film.
Most of the headlines I’ve read for this episode remark on the fact that Blumhouse finally tackled gay horror in the regard that “Midnight Kiss” is a horror film prominently featuring a cast of mostly gay characters. “Midnight Kiss” is a character-driven horror film without any supernatural monsters, and what makes the film is its excellent character writing, directing, cinematography, sound design and acting. Director Carter Smith does an excellent job of using this world as a backdrop for good storytelling, and, as a result, “Midnight Kiss” feels fresh and new. Despite the fact that it does have a decent amount of horror cliches, Smith manages to make a horror film you feel like you haven’t seen before, which is laudable considering how factory-made and dull Blumhouse films can be.
However, the script feels like it was a few drafts away from being excellent, and the film as a whole feels like it just needed a bit of a tune-up to become something of equal quality to something like “Get Out.” The talent is clearly here, its premise is interesting enough and it has well-written characters who make the film engaging and interesting, and there are moments where this film looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous. The best sequence in the film takes place in a gay bar filled with bright neon colors and lighting shot beautifully, in which the distinct sounds of the club are used masterfully to build tension, create intrigue, and add weight to certain moments in the film. I don’t usually comment on sound design in a film unless it’s distracting or excellent, and “Midnight Kiss”‘s sound design noticeably enhanced the film.
The only thing keeping “Midnight Kiss” from standing with some of the best horror of 2019 is its script, which isn’t terrible, it just isn’t great, with its first and third acts being in real need of some adjustments. Still, it’s a great watch, and is better than most Blumhouse films I’ve seen in the theater.
“Midnight Kiss” gets a 7.5/10