23:59 (2011)

Technical expounding aside, we can safely expand the above assertion to local horror film 23:59, arguably one of the scarier local film productions around. Despite moments of hammy acting and a fragmented plot that could have been better fleshed out, 23:59 achieves its relatively modest goals of being an entertaining, occasionally frightening endeavor.

The horror movie follows Tan, the introverted platoon outcast and his pragmatic army buddy Jeremy, who also happens to be a son of a medium. Something eerie is happening in camp, but it takes numerous mishaps for the incidents to be taken as more than just a figment of overactive, adolescent army boy imaginations.

Overall, what helps 23:59 to succeed is its army camp setting, which will probably be all too familiar to any of our local lads who’ve been through BMT (Basic Military Training). As any army boy will attest, nothing in camp is safe from ghouls and ghastly beasties, ranging from innocuous chin-up bars to the less-than sanitary toilets. Director Gilbert Chan marries these stereotypes to some genuinely eerie imagery, with decidedly hair-raising effect.

The film’s major flaw stems from its below-average run time, which prevents the author from fleshing out his charming, albeit grimy, cast. This, coupled with the director’s decision to include several miniature, self-contained ghostly anecdotes within the main story arc gives the film a rather frenetic pace, and ultimately makes the film less coherent than it should be.

The cast put in enthusiastic, semi-convincing performances as the motley crew of army stereotypes, ranging from the trash-talking Ah Beng to the irritatingly articulate top JC kid, to that most recognisable of army archetypes: the blur cock. Mark Lee’s role as the overly superstitious, slightly too benevolent platoon sergeant, however, strains the audience`s disbelief, and the casting of Stella Chung in the bit part of the much-too-pretty Canteen Girl completely shatters it. Suffice to say that during our army stint on Tekong, any lady sighted within a five-mile radius of the camp weighed twice as much as our warrant officer did, and probably had more facial hair.

Nitpickings at army realism aside, 23:59 is a competently made local production that is both charmingly nostalgic and rather eerie, despite several rough patches.

SUMMARY: Worth watching under the sheets after lights out, and bound to entertain those currently serving (read: suffering) National Service.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Raphael Lim