Mid-budget horror films driven by their actors are my jam. They can be charming and thrilling with the best of them, and that’s Midnight from Dread Presents. A film out of South Korea, Midnight is written and directed by Kwon Oh-Seung and stars Wi Ha-jun, Jin Ki-Joo, Gil Hae-yeon, and Kim Hye-Yoon. At just over an hour and 30-minutes, Midnight is all about building tension and keeping it ramped up with its actors more than its story.
In Midnight, fear grips the country of South Korea as a serial killer, Do Shik (Wi Ha-Joon), stalks its residents. Kyung-mi (Jin Ki-joo ), a Deaf woman, is out late with her mother when she stumbles upon a young woman bleeding out in a dark alley. While the two just want to get home and plan their trip to Jeju Island, they stumble into a brutal crime with no apparent way out. What starts as Kyung-mi trying to help Do Shik find his sister devolves into realizing that the kind man is actually a brutal killer.
For the rest of the film, Kyung-mi runs for her life, tries to reason with Do Shik, and just tries to make it out alive. But when Do Shik removes her ability to know that people are around her by interfering with her phone and audio sensors, an already difficult situation becomes almost impossible.
It should be noted that neither Kyung-Mi nor her mother are played by Deaf actresses, and this leads to a lot of overacting and inconsistencies with lip-reading from the two that detract from the film itself. Additionally, there is an attempt to drop out the film’s sound so that you understand the terrifying position Kyung-Mi is in, but this isn’t executed as seamlessly or at a good enough pace as other films that have used the technique. Specifically, Hush comes to mind, another film about a Deaf protagonist fighting to survive a killer. That said, using Kyung-mi’s deafness as a part of her struggle to survive involves using sensors throughout the film to showcase how she knows when someone is around her, and it mostly works.
A simple film,Midnight is a ride that is worth taking because its faults are overpowered by a completely terrifying performance from Wi Ha-Jun as Do Shik. Taking place over the course of one night, Midnight heightens the tension by lulling the viewer and the mother and daughter into safety by showing us a charming Do Shik—and actor Wi Ha-Jun rises to the challenge. He is suave and calming, he knows what to say to get people to trust him, and a well-worn suit works wonders.
As he transitions from concerned brother to conniving killer looking to outsmart the police in the second act, you see him turn his sharp charm into cruelty. A master manipulator, Wi’s ability to play the camera and turn his expressions on a dime is chilling and intensely interesting in equal measure. But, then, by the third act, Do Shik becomes completely unhinged, and in that murderous chaos, you see a complete character that has slipped further and further down a spiral all in one night.
Midnight is average, but Wi Ha-Jun’s performance is extraordinary and chilling. He keeps the tension ramped up and his dynamic with Jin Ki-joo’s Kyung-Mi is stellar, intimidating, and terrifying. For that alone, Midnight is entirely worth picking up the moment it comes out.
Midnight is available On Demand on April 5 and on Blu-ray on May 10, 2022, from Dread Presents.
Midnight is average, but Wi Ha-Jun’s performance is extraordinary and chilling. He keeps the tension ramped up, and his dynamic with Jin Ki-joo’s Kyung-Mi is stellar, intimidating, and terrifying. For that alone, Midnight is entirely worth picking up the moment it comes out.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.