Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Film Review: 23:59 (2011)

23:59 (Review)
Malaysia/Singapore/2011
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...I genuinely enjoyed the "campfire ghost story"-vibe it creates."

In 1983, a group of young soldiers are in the midst of completing their training. However, they may also be in the midst of a haunting -- the ghost of a mad woman, that is said to have died at 23:59, may be returning at the same time of her death to haunt them.

23:59 is simply supernatural horror film. You have the traditional characters; the wimp, the nonbeliever, the tough guy, etc. The story follows this young group of soldiers over the course of a few days. It begins with them telling ghost stories that surround the camp, then being haunted by that same ghost. Eventually, they try to find the source of the haunting, especially after it has fatal consequences. The search for the haunting and the outcome have been done before, it's pretty much your typical Asian ghost story; you'll know what to expect if you're familiar with the genre.. The story ends in a simple yet creepy fashion.

I like the simple approach 23:59 takes -- it doesn't overcomplicate itself and it doesn't suffer from being too ambitious. I like the ghost stories within the film, it feels like the good old days of telling scary stories around a campfire. I also like the ghost designs, which range from disturbing to creepy. There are plenty of jump-scares, some more effective than others, but enough to keep you on edge. There are also some creepy, subtle visuals, like the background movements in the forest scenes. However, there are a couple of scares and set pieces that have been done before, but at least they're done well and some viewers will be able to appreciate them. On top of that, the film well paced and to the point thanks to its forgiving runtime and consistent scares; definitely a great creeper to kill time.

The entire cast deliver good performances; they're a bit overdone, with quite a few moments of overacting, but it's generally competent and enjoyable. The special effects and makeup are great, creating very effective ghosts. The film is well shot, I really liked the scenes in the wilderness. The scares are consistent, combining jolting jump-scares, creepy visuals, and an ominous atmosphere. It's not original, but the writing tries to be creative and is ultimately smooth; and, I can't stress enough how much I genuinely enjoyed the "campfire ghost story"-vibe it creates.

Overall, 23:59 is a very good supernatural horror film; it has a variety of consistent scares, a brisk pace, a relieving run time, and a solid story to tell. If you're drained out of Asian ghost films, you may want to wait before watching 23:59; if you're just getting into the genre, or haven't watched a film from it in a while, 23:59 is a nice treat.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

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