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23:59 The Haunting Hour
23:59 猛鬼兵营

Opening Date
09 Aug 2018
PG13 Horror and Some Sexual References
89 mins
English with English & Chinese subtitles
Gilbert Chan
Mark Lee, Wang Lei, Noah Yap
Recruit Tommy - a socially awkward individual, is the subject of teasing and bullying by his army mates. He seeks comfort from the compliments left by his readers on his blog that features fictitious army horror stories he writes in his free time. One day, he received a text message from an attractive reader and things started to go awry…
By Say Peng  08 Aug 2018
With The Haunting Hour, director Gilbert Chan’s ambition has markedly grown. Taking more narrative risks, The Haunting Hour rarely peddles in cheap and easy jump scares, and employs instead a kind of atmospheric slow-burn tension.
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The first 23:59 was released in 2011 to great commercial success. After a long 7-year wait, the sequel to 23:59 is finally here. Singapore’s horror maestro Gilbert Chan, who also directed Ghost Child (2013), returns to write and direct. Employing a story-within-a-story structure, The Haunting Hour features a trifecta of stories set in three key periods of Singapore’s National Service history, and featuring three different types of ghosts.

The main narrative arc of the movie follows Tommy, played by Fabian Loo, a socially awkward recruit often bullied by his bunk mates. His only respite is the horror stories that he writes on his blog, which are always well received and appreciated by his readers. One day, he receives a message from one of his readers. It’s a girl, and a very good-looking one, played by actress-model Melody Low (Siew Lup), in a rare role that does not exploit her body but actually gives her a chance to demonstrate her acting. Smitten, Tommy returns her message and they begin a conversation. Tommy imagines being in a relationship with her, and even Photoshops a picture of them together as a couple, which he uploads to social media, to try to impress his bunk mates. But as we’d find out later, she is not what she appears to be.

The other two stories that make up The Haunting Hour are visualisations of the stories that Tommy has written on his blog. One of them is set in late 60s, the infant years of National Service, and follows three soldiers who stray away from their training camp and end up in a cursed village. They stumble upon a frightened woman hiding in a house, who tells them that a Japanese soldier spirit has been slaughtering the villagers and is still out and about. Needless to say, the Japanese soldier spirit turns up, and in full Jason Voorhees mode to boot.

The other story follows the commander of the three soldiers, played by Mark Lee, who has smuggled a snake back from the overseas training camp to Singapore. Unbeknownst to any of them, the snake is actually a female python spirit, personified by Malaysian singer-model-actress Natalia Ng, seeking revenge on the soldiers who have killed and eaten her mate. Possessing a strict, fastidious and rule-abiding officer, played by Malaysian comedian Tay Yin Yin, the python spirit seduces, maims and kills the soldiers. The few surviving soldiers resort to the services of a Taoist medium, played by Wang Lei (Long Long Time Ago), to try to exorcise the python spirit. A running, albeit slightly over-wrung, gag that involves well timed comedic editing makes this episode easily the funniest of the three.

With The Haunting Hour, Chan’s ambition has markedly grown. He has taken more narrative risks with the use of a story-within-a-story structure, which gives him the chance to flex his directorial muscles and experiment with a couple of different kinds of horror subgenres. And following in the footsteps of several recent acclaimed horror films such as The Witch and Hereditary, The Haunting Hour rarely peddles in cheap and easy jump scares, and employs instead a kind of atmospheric slow-burn tension. While Chan strives to make different but better horror films that do not sacrifices good drama, it is up to the local audience to hopefully take a chance on a horror film that does not scare us in the traditional way.
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