Midnight Kiss debuts today on Hulu as part of its Into the Dark series co-produced with Blumhouse Studios.
Written by Erlingur Thoroddsen (Rift) and directed by Carter Smith (The Ruins), this slasher film centers on a group of gay friends and their best gal pal as they get together to ring in the New Year. They have a special game they like to play called “Midnight Kiss” but this year things will take a deadly turn when a killer sets his sights on the group.
I spoke with Thoroddsen late last week. He was keen to talk about the film despite a serious case of jet-lag from traveling to Iceland to visit family for the holidays.
The writer and director said he’d been wanting to do a gay slasher film for a while, now, so when he found out that Blumhouse was specifically interested in doing exactly that for their New Year’s episode of Into the Dark, it was music to his ears.
However, the series presented its own hurdles. With a lower, mid-range budget, and the need for a small cast and only a couple of shooting locations, a lot of the ideas Thoroddsen had toyed with in the past just would not work. He also knew from the start that the film would happen very quickly if his pitch was accepted.
In fact, he would have less than a month to write the script and have it ready for production.
“Even going into the pitch, I knew that was the reality,” Thoroddsen explained. “I went in with a very well prepared pitch. I had all the big beats of the story. I’ve never written anything this fast before, but it wasn’t a nightmare. It was exhilarating. When you don’t have time to waste, you rely on your instincts.”
Thoroddsen’s instincts led him to interesting places while writing the script. Like many slasher movies, that involved embracing certain stereotypes with the characters he was writing. The queens became more flamboyant, the language more pointed, the drug use more prevalent, and the sex scenes more gratuitous.
Still, there are kernels of truth in what he created, and he’s quick to point out that just because the characters aren’t necessarily all likable, that doesn’t mean they don’t originate from a real place.
“I’d been living in LA for a year and a half when I started writing the script,” he said. “The ‘LA gay’ is fascinating to me. The ‘pretty gays’ and the promiscuity of West Hollywood inspired me and was something I wanted to write about. Carter really got that and the cast connected to it, as well. On the one hand, I could see how people would receive that as exhibiting something negative, but if you spend any time in West Hollywood, you’re going to see these people at brunch on Sundays. It wasn’t a stretch.”
The production took the reality one step further by casting gay actors to play the gay characters in the film. It lends a certain layer of authenticity to the characters that would have been seriously lacking in the hands of straight actors who have no experience within this type group of friends.
“We had such a huge pool of actors for the auditions,” Thoroddsen said. “I think we ended up with the perfect cast. They inhabit that group so perfectly. There are so many great gay actors out there and it’s a shame they don’t get to play these kinds of roles more often.”
With the actors in place, it was time to decide on just what kind of mask their killer would be wearing. While writing the script, he said he had more of a demonic/gimp type mask in mind, but the director took it to a slightly different place.
“The pup mask came from Carter,” he said. “Once we started seeing certain versions of it, it really began to work for us. Once it is revealed who the killer is, even though there’s no BDSM scene in the movie itself, I wanted to play with the idea that he’s more of a sub in his relationship. That’s where the idea came from. He feels submissive to that person in particular but he’s acting out, dominating them, while still wearing his sub face.”
The symbolism ultimately works, adding an interesting dynamic once the killer is revealed especially when played against another murder that takes place in the film by a different character.
Their motivations could not be further apart, yet the secondary killer still manages to act superior calling the masked murder another “psychopathic bottom.”
Thoroddsen admits that he didn’t intend for a larger lesson or message to be a part of the film, but he supposed that this distillation really speaks to that in the long run.
“The one character is acting out of impulse and jealousy where the other has planned it but his motive is more intellectual. Not feeling seen within a group of marginalized people takes a toll when it’s supposed to be an accepting space,” he pointed out. “You want to be accepted but you’re not and that’s festered inside of him. In hook up culture and that promiscuous setting, I wanted to bring that aspect into what is driving him to kill. It’s almost specifically a gay male thing not that everyone participates in that kind of culture.”
As the premiere date for Midnight Kiss looms, Thoroddsen admits that he’s a bit nervous, but also excited at the prospect of the film being seen by a larger audience, and in the meantime, he’s looking ahead to other projects that he’s working on at the moment.
One of those includes the American remake of his Icelandic horror film Rift.
“Lots of cool stuff going on there that I cannot talk about,” he says, “but I’m very excited about it. Hopefully there will be something I can talk about soon with that.”
Midnight Kiss is available now on Hulu. Check out the trailer below and let us know in the comments if you’ll be watching!