A seemingly simple set-up (mother and daughter stumble upon a serial killer mid kill, thus he re-directs his bloodlust towards them and gives chase) is given verve, Hitchcockian tension, and extra depth via nerve shredding direction and having the two leads both deaf and mute. Mother and daughter (Gil Hae-Yeon and Jin Ki-Joo) are a loving family unit just looking forward to finally getting a holiday when one night they happen to cross paths with a demented killer (Wi Ha-Joon) as he attempts to slay his next victim (Kim Hye-Yoon). Seeing a chance to add more victims to his body count, the killer gives chase thinking he can easily bag the two ladies with little effort: using their lack of hearing and not being able to scream/shout against them. However, the mother and daughter are much more resourceful than given credit and fight back with all their might as they are pursued across the night-time city.
Having the lead characters both deaf and mute adds another layer of tension and terror to proceedings as the duo, thrust into ever escalating dangerous circumstances and with a seemingly lack of law enforcement nearby to call upon, find it increasingly difficult to convince others they are being pursued by a deadly killer. In addition, writer/director Kwon Oh-Seung (making a rock-solid feature debut), adds layers of tension by having the killer conceal his identity from the two to begin with, as he tries to control the situation when they do track down police to report the attempted killing. This leads to some incredibly well staged sequences of mounting pressure as the killer slowly begins to lose grip on events, thus then propelling the film into a propulsive chase thriller.
Kwon Oh-Seung then orchestrates some thrilling chase sequences as the killer hunts his prey and they continue to outsmart him. The killer always thinks he’s a step ahead, and while he may be at first, the mother and daughter continue to survive despite what many would consider them being at a disadvantage with their lack of hearing. This gives a creative edge to proceedings as they use numerous “listening” devices (sound activated sensors that light up in various ways when disruptive sound is close by!) to help keep them one step ahead of the in-pursuit killer. Coupled with various scenes “heard” from the perspective of the leads (meaning all sound drops out) this adds further layers of tension as we the viewer also can’t hear whether the killer is going to strike. It’s also refreshing to see sign language used in so many of the scenes, as while their limitation of not being able to shout out does hinder the pair, the two are just as resourceful and fight back just as fierce as those who can hear and talk.
‘Midnight’ rarely puts a foot wrong, and the tension is sustained for the entire runtime. There is also added substance with the brother (Park Hoon) of the most recent victim also hot on the killer’s trail, as he attempts to discover what has happened to his sister. Plus, the chase and fight scenes that ensue are laced with propulsive thrills, including a sustained foot chase late in the game: action filmmakers take note, this is how you shoot a foot chase!
Sure, suspension of disbelief may be needed on a few occasions (but what thriller doesn’t have heightened scenes of peril?) and there are a few scenes when many of the characters could have taken out/made sure the killer was dead, but these are minor quibbles for what is a superior thriller that is creative, often fraught as hell, and bolstered by some incredible performances from the main cast.
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