The Midnight After | Fruit Chan | Hong Kong | 2016 | 124 minutes
Lewis Peterson from the Four Star Video Coop looks at The Midnight After, the latest from Hong Kong auteur Fruit Chan (Dumplings).
The Midnight After is plotted like a game of pick up sticks, and firmly adheres to the idea that presenting a mystery is more satisfying than solving one.
The premise is a localized version of something between Lost and The Omega Man: 17 people board a bus in the Mong Kok area of Hong Kong, go through a tunnel to another area called Tai Po (the literally translated title is “That Midnight, I got on the red public light bus that headed from Mong Kok to Tai Po” according to Wikipedia), and upon arrival they slowly discover that everyone else in Hong Kong has disappeared.
Many of the local references will likely be lost on western viewers (as many were on your humble reviewer), but it shouldn’t interfere with the entertaining range of absurd tones The Midnight After offers.
Given the premise that there are only 17 people on earth to potentially explore as characters, each one of them is given at least scene where they are the focus of attention. These range from singing an entire David Bowie song to explain a clue the group has been given, or being the target of a gruesome but deserved group punishment.
The film was adapted from a serialized online novel by a writer who goes by the name “Mr. Pizza.” The episodic nature is apparent, especially in how certain characters are kept on the back burner until they can be worked into the web of developed threads of what is happening. Tangents include references to equally plausible theories for the mysterious happenings, including Fukushima radiation, time travel, the year 2012, and North Korean espionage. None of these theories get the characters any closer to being free of their situation.
The array of characters is straight out of an extended “x walked into a bar” joke setup: A gangster, a clairvoyant insurance saleswoman, a record store clerk, a drug addict, a computer programmer, a buck-toothed woman, two Soccer fans, two hoodlums, four college students, the bus driver, two generically attractive people who in a normal movie would be the leads.
The late addition of a mysterious figure in a gas mask and black trench coat that appears to be the only native of the alternate universe. Like many things in this movie, that figure’s presence is halfway explained so you don’t care that the narrative is moving on to the next thing.
This movie dares to be sloppy, and defies you to ask for any kind of explanation of spontaneous combustion or people crumbling like statues. As long as its fun to watch, what more do you want from an apocalypse?
Check out the other Missed Madison Film Festival reviews for Monday, January 23:
Editor’s Note: Be sure to visit Lewis Peterson at Four Star Video Cooperative, and ask him about the Missed Madison Film Festival display case, or any of his staff picks.