Midnight REVIEW – Will Keep You Up Past Your Bedtime | Fantasia 2021

Oh-Seung Kwon's Midnight is a well-paced thriller with an important message at the heart of it.


If you’ve seen Mike Flanagan’s Hush, then it will seem like Midnight has the same premise. The main similarity is that the protagonists of both films are deaf, with a mad killer nipping at their heels. That’s as far as it goes. Midnight is darker (no pun intended) and feels infinitely more dangerous. Directed by Oh-Seung Kwon, who also penned the script, the film is well-paced and truly innovative in the way it carves out this cat and mouse chase.

Midnight begins by setting up all the characters involved: we have our protagonist Kyung Mi (Ki-joo Jin) and her mother (Hae-yeon Kil), siblings Jong Tak (Park Hoon) and So Jung (Kim Hye-Yoon), as well as how our killer Do Shik (Wi Ha-Joon) operates. While these moments aren’t very extensive, they’re a really good way to give us insight into these relationships, as well as make us root for these likeable individuals. When both Kyung Mi and So Jung find themselves in the vicinity of where Do Shik operates, the film does great work in building up the tension – we’re on tenterhooks as we watch his every step.

While he initially spares Kyung Mi and her mother, Kyung Mi’s discovery of So Jung and the interruption of his murder night plans forces Do Shik to set his sights on her instead. I cannot tell you how scary it was to watch all this unfold. As a woman who has to walk home at night alone sometimes, however short the trek, the fear of being attacked is always at the back of my mind. To see So Jung get abducted so close to home, to feel how vulnerable Kyung Mi and her mother are despite there being two of them, it’s all absolutely terrifying.

To make matters worse, all forms of calling for help require you to speak or make some noise. When Kyung Mi hits the police call button, she is asked to speak about her distress, and later on at the police station, she is asked to describe the events and though she is able to fill out a statement, it’s a clear lapse from the police not getting someone who knows sign language to communicate with her. A woman is missing, Kyung Mi is an eyewitness – there needs to be more urgency instead of whatever it is the police are doing.

The film shows us the huge disadvantage both Kyung Mi and her mother face in trying to get help, or communicate with others. Oh-Seung Kwon even daringly pushes the narrative into the city space, a place so contrasting to the earlier darkened streets, yet Kyung Mi is unable to compel anyone around her to help when she is literally being pursued by a killer. Do Shik has the advantage here as he can speak, weaving lies and saying whatever he wants, which allows him to escape time and time again.

But Kyung Mi is a resilient protagonist, and she refuses to make things easy for him. Interestingly, Do Shik could have walked away from this situation numerous times, but his murderous desires won’t let him. Wi Ha-Joon is riveting to watch as the antagonist – there is no ounce of sympathy present here, and he’s guided only by the pursuit of his prey. He is somehow able to make his good looks feel so menacing and ugly, which is a superb effort on Wi Ha-Joon’s part. Ki-Koo Jin’s Kyung Mi is his opposite; she may want to survive, but she won’t leave others in the lurch just to do so.

Oh-Seung Kwon did such fantastic work in considering the nature of each locale, and how to escalate the tension in each of these spaces. Tracking shots to establish Do Shik’s speed as he chases Kyung Mi down the darkened streets, the use of sound-triggered flashing lights in Kyung Mi’s house to generate unease, he even manages to turn the city space into hostile ground.

Midnight is such a well-constructed thriller that makes for a satisfying watch. It also reinforces the need for society to be more inclusive to the needs of people like Kyung Mi and her mother, as well as bigger steps in ensuring the safety of women, so that they don’t become a mere statistic in a crime report.

Review screener provided.

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While some of these thrillers based on cat and mouse games can feel a bit drawn-out and tiresome, this is never the case for Midnight, which manages to bring something new and refreshing to the genre.