Sure, we’ve had cat and mouse thrillers with disabled characters before, like Hush or more recently, See for Me. However, Midnight ups the stakes by placing a deaf mother and daughter in an urban setting, chased by a psycho. This film pushes you to the edge of your seat in nail-biting suspense. It makes for a perfect weekend watch with a tub of popcorn and soda.
Written and directed by Oh-Seung Kwon, the film stars Ki-joo Jin as Kyung Mi. She gets caught up in the old wrong place at the wrong time scenario. She spots a shoe in an alleyway and then encounters a victim about to be slaughtered by psychopath Do Shik, played by “Squid Game” star Wi Ha-Joon. For the next 90 minutes, Do Shik relentlessly pursues Kyung Mi and her mom, played by Hae-yeon Kil. He won’t stop until they’re dead. They know all about his crimes and how he pulls women into his creepy black van.
There’s so much working well with this film. All of the stars give excellent performances. Hae-yeon Kil and Ki-joo Jin’s characters earn empathy from the viewer. However, despite their disabilities, they’re no damsels in distress. Kyung Mi especially fights back against the brute and refuses to surrender. Further, this film has one of the best uses of sound design that I’ve witnessed in some time. The sound is used to shift perspectives and to underscore the sense of the world as seen through the two deaf characters. It increases the tension, yes, but more importantly, it puts us in the shoes of two characters facing perilous circumstances.
There’s also something so clever about the way that Do Shik alters his persona. In front of a crowd, and even at a police station, he acts as the good guy. He constantly creates a persona to mask his evil intentions. He keeps himself veiled within the larger society by faking niceties. At one point, he tells a crowd of onlookers that Kyung Mi is his sister and he needs to get her home safely.
Additionally, the victim that Kyung Mi encounters in the first act, So Jung (Kim Hye-Yoon), isn’t dead. This creates an intriguing subplot. Her older brother, played by Park Hoon, joins the mom and daughter to stop the killer and locate his sister. This creates another layer. It’s not a subplot just thrown into the movie, and it gives So Jung more relevance.
Overall, Midnight is a gripping South Korean film well worth a watch. It contains strong performances, uneasy and tense sequences, and stellar sound design. Meanwhile, the urban setting shows how difficult it is to navigate the world with a disability. It’s hard to believe that this is only Oh-Seung Kwon‘s first feature. Midnight is a masterclass in tension and suspense. Oh, and it has some of the best chase sequences of the year. It is out today April 5th or on Blu-ray later in May. Find it and watch it immediately.
Brian Fanelli is a poet and educator who also enjoys writing about the horror genre. His work has been published in The LA Times, World Literature Today, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Horror Homeroom, and elsewhere. On weekends, he enjoys going to the local drive-in theater with his wife or curling up on the couch, and binge-watching movies with their cat, Giselle.