The lives of seven strangers on a minibus to Tai Po undergo a radical change in this film from auteur Fruit Chan that melds various genres with a sense of politics towards the end.
On one fateful night in Hong Kong, seventeen people hop on board a minibus going to Tai Po. They are an eclectic bunch including a running junkie, Blind Fai; football-loving couple Bobby and Pat; youngsters Chi and Yuki; college student and techie expert Shun; Fat, who has a troubled past; Ying, a woman who believes in the alignment of the stars; rascals Airplane and Glu-Stick; and musician Auyeung Wai. As the group drive towards Lion Rock Tunnel to Tai Po, they soon learn out of nowhere, the city is completely empty. No cars, no people. Nothing at all.
As Chi and Yuki head back to their homes and Fai heads towards Kowloon, something mysterious begins to happen. A group of university students succumb to a mysterious virus. The next morning, the group in the minibus receive a simultaneous message that is a message based on a famous David Bowie song. The group soon learns that they have been missing six years. As they try to find a way to discover the truth about what’s going on, revelations and dark secrets as well as the virus begin to create potential victims. Who will be left of the group when they discover the truth behind the chaos that has ensues amongst the survivors?
Based on an internet novel from “Pizza”, this Fruit Chan film is truly one of those films that well, one would have to get into to get it. Chan, along with scripters Chan Fai-Hung and Kong Ho-Yan, took a good portion of the novel and added a twist that relates to the finale in terms of its political allegory, mainly involving the 2047 return of Hong Kong to Communist rule through Mainland China. However, the story focuses more on a 28 Days Later-kind of take meshed with shades of a pandemic film about survivors who unknowingly realize they have been missing six years in a flash. In addition, the juxtapositioning of flashbacks to coincide with the present day shows events perhaps in the eyes of the survivors but it can cause a bit of confusion if you were to miss it for even one second.
What helps the film is the eclectic cast of characters featured in the film. Wong You-Nam and Janice Man play two youngsters who are worried about their significant others yet it seems like Wong’s Chi may have a thing for Man’s Yuki, only to discover something more malevolent. Simon Yam’s Fat is quite an eccentric character with his troubled past and strange theories alongside former kung fu starlet Kara Hui, who plays an accountant who believes in astrology and mysticism. Chui Tien-You’s Shun is truly the smart guy of the bunch while Sam Lee’s junkie Fai and Lam Suet’s driver tend to bring a little bit of comic relief to the film to lighten the mood of the film. Musician Jan Curious’s impromptu performance of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” tends to lighten the mood as well, just before a shocking event happens out of nowhere.
Speaking of shocking, some of the scenes involving deaths and violence bring a little bit of shock value to the film, notably the deaths of the university students, where we see one succumbing to the virus by melting into a skeleton, two becoming dust, and one looking like he could star in a remake of the classic film Scanners. A pivotal scene involving the death of another young woman is revealed as she had contracted the virus when she is raped by one of the two rascals, forcing the rest of the group to serve as judge and jury. Another interesting notion is the mysterious people in full suits and gas masks that stalk our survivors. As the film progresses, their intentions are somewhat revealed but one can wonder why.
The Midnight After is a very interesting title from Fruit Chan. Combining his aesthetic tone with a meshing of popular genres and adding a final political allegory, unless you can withstand seeing the movie from beginning to end, this may be one to ultimately skip. However, if you like movies involving pandemics and eclectic characters with a touch of comic relief, this may be for you. Ultimately, it is your call.
WFG RATING: C
Well Go USA Entertainment presents a Golden Scene Co. Ltd. production in association with The Film Development Fund of Hong Kong and Sun Entertainment Culture Ltd. Director: Fruit Chan. Producer: Amy Chin. Writers: Chan Fai-Hung, Kong Ho-Yan, and Fruit Chan; based on the original novel by Pizza. Cinematography: Lam Wah-Tsuen. Editing: Fruit Chan and Toto.
Cast: Wong You-Nam, Janice Man, Simon Yam, Kara Hui, Lam Suet, Chui Tien-You, Sam Lee, Vincci Cheuk, Lee Sheung-Ching, Jan Curious, Ronny Yuen, Kelvin Chan, Melodee Mak.