There’s something very familiar about Netflix’s ‘Kissing Game.’ Its intensifying sense of dread, its neon-lit color palette, and terrifying trippy visuals remind you of Richard Stanley’s cosmic horror film ‘Color Out of Space’. Even its premise is quite similar to the Lovecraftian adaptation, with the only difference being Kissing Game’s inclination towards sci-fi and not horror. Moreover, unlike ‘Color Out of Space’, ‘Kissing Game’ leaves you with almost no answered questions and even tries to draw parallels between the current situation of the world and its sci-fi premise. As misleading as its title may seem, the Brazilian original is quite intriguing and definitely unsettling.
Kissing Game Plot
‘Kissing Game’ is set in a small, peaceful town that seems to be a little isolated from the rest of the world. In its opening scene, a high school girl gets a strange illness after a night of partying in the woods. While her best friend, Fren, frantically worries about her, her condition only gets worse.
As the disease begins to spread onto other teens who attended the party, Fren and her two friends, Chico and Alex, deduce that it spreads from kissing. They map everyone who kissed at the party only to understand who among them could be infected. However, their strategy for controlling the disease does not work. It only makes the situation even worse. While the mysterious sickness grips the entire community of the town, other revelations disclose that nothing about their town is as it seems.
Kissing Game Review
In its initial moments, ‘Kissing Game’ comes off as a typical coming-of-age drama that only uses themes of sci-fi as a mere allegory to depict teens implicit in reckless behaviors. During these moments, its moody imagery truly engrosses you in its slow atmospheric build-up. Everything from its set designs, character costumes, hair and makeup, and even background composition have subtle bursts of purplish electric hues that further intensify its thrilling intrigue. There’s also a trippy, hallucinogenic fashion in its depiction of the fictional disease. The ones infected by it have a strange shade of lilac going down their lips, which even illuminates in the dark.
Apart from being visually stunning, even the slow-burn plot of ‘Kissing Game’ is quite appreciable. There’s plenty for thriller hounds to enjoy here. However, the chief problem with it is that the further its story progresses, the more it moves into an over-the-top domain. What starts as a reasonably relevant tale of a contagious disease, later transcends into grating sci-fi chaos. Although its premise purposefully devolves into this chaos, this approach becomes a little exhaustive after a while. Thankfully, all of this pays off in its last few episodes, where it cleverly puts together all the pieces of its puzzle. Another issue with its overarching plot is that it initially struggles to establish a primary conflict. As a viewer, you have almost nothing to hold onto, while its plot points simply waver from one mystery to another. The conclusion of the series very well weaves these mysteries together, but an audience with a shorter attention span may never reach its final act.
The performances of its teenage cast aren’t very consistent but are still good enough to keep you invested almost all the time. However, the show’s heavy investment in its sci-fi plot compromises its character development. Moreover, midway through its runtime, the creators of the series take a significant risk of eradicating one of its primary characters. After this point, it lingers a little, and only finds its feet in its final moments of revelation. While I appreciate the fact that this bold move makes the threat of its fictional disease a lot more believable, it makes the teen drama a lot less poignant.
In terms of capturing the raw and powerful emotions of its coming-of-age themes, ‘Kissing Game’ amounts to nothing. On the other hand, its visually engaging cinematography and artistic cult appeal are very effective. ‘Kissing Game’ is certainly not for everyone as it’s quite different from most Netflix teen thrillers. It is still a not so easily forgettable series, and I suspect that it might gain popularity in due time.
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