Midnight Movie Review
Written by Joanna K. Neilson
Released by EonTalk
Written and directed by Oh-Seung Kwon
2021, 103 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Grimmfest European Premiere on 7th October 2021
Wi Ha-Joon as Do Shik
Park Hoon as Jong Tak So Jung's older brother
Ki-joo Jin as Kyung Mi
Kim Hye-Yoon as So Jung
South Korea has been hitting it out of the Park (excuse the pun) for a while now, and this seems like no exception. It channels the best kind of old school exploitation, where a heroine has a disability which makes them even more vulnerable to the threats of a horror film, but also, potentially, tougher and more able to surprise the killer.
Kyung Mi (Jin Ki-Joo) is tiny, vulnerable, and totally unable to hear. She may have had the condition from birth, as her aging seamstress mother has a similar disability. Neither woman lets this slow them down though. Kyung more-than holds her own in a sexist workplace that tries to take advantage of it. Always remember, male chauvenists, that this deaf girl can read your lips and insult you in ways you’ve never dreamed of.
A hilarious altercation with a grumpy customer also makes it clear that Kyung is no pushover. There’s useful technology and good friends and family that make her day to day life much easier. It's fascinating to see just how she and her mother deal with the most mundane issues, like not running out in front of moving cars! And they definitely give the impression that they have life under control.
Which doesn’t make it any less terrifying when Kyung lands up in the sights of ridiculously sleek killer, Do Shik (Wi Ha-Joon). You may recognize Do Shik as the nosey cop from the magnificent Squid Game (especially if you’re reading this in late 2021). But in Midnight, the actor gets to show off a seriously sinister side.
The fact that this monster is both disarmingly handsome and able to switch from a helpless victim to a truly terrifying monster according to the situation, makes him a deadly opponent. After all, it’s hard to get the cops to listen at the best of times. Kyung’s frantic attempts to be heard and warn people of Do Shik’s threats are even more terrifying than the killer himself. Every ounce of frustration is wrung from this situation and you’re never quite sure how it’ll all work out.
However, the sadistic killer seriously underestimates their resourcefulness and their willingnes to fight for each other. A lot is at stake and you feel it the whole way. This is wonderfully tense and makes the most of its idea all the way through.
Unfortunately, the chase parts soon get much too repetitive. Kyung keeps running up and down the deserted backstreets, on an apparently endless night, while making increasingly stupid decisions. The girl has major stamina, but the running really starts to drag it all down. And while everything pays off well eventually, this could really have done with losing about ten minutes to keep the gory finale just as taut as its terrifying setup.
But Do Shik’s madness and Kyung Mi and her mother are seriously great fun to watch while its novelty and great performances keep it interesting, for the most part. It’s definitely one to add to a South Korea horror watchlist. So, if you’re looking for a badass survival horror, with really high stakes, then Midnight is well worth staying up for. Strongly recommended.
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