Hello everyone, and welcome back to Netflix Dumpster Dive! So, since I was late getting out my review for March, I figured I’d try and put another out a bit earlier than usual. I had originally planned to begin posting twice a month, however life got in the way, and I had lacked the motivation to put out a post last week. I’m not sure yet if May will begin my bi-monthly schedule for this series, but I do have some plans that should come to fruition in June.
Before we step into this month’s movie, I want to comment on a small change to my formula. Netflix is a good service. It doesn’t always have the cream of the crop in terms of movies, but overall I enjoy what it has to offer. That’s why I do this. I want myself and others to get the full value out of their subscriptions. However, Netflix also likes frustrating me at times. The 5 Star Rating System has been removed from the site in favor of a Thumb Up/Thumb Down System. The idea behind this change was to allow users to give a flat yes or no on liking a film, and receive their recommendations based on this. Do I hate this system? No. However, I used the 5 Star System as a barometer for movies to choose from, and now things are a bit more difficult. When I give my personal ratings on a film, I will continue to give a score out of 10. However, the rating on Netflix has become less of a factor in my decisions, so it will be a more significant challenge when seeking out more subject matter for this series.
Now that all the preliminaries are out of the way, let’s take a look at this month’s movie. Those who know my taste in movies well know that I have a guilty pleasure regarding strange Japanese movies. In fact, many such films are what made me develop the movie watching habits that led to Netflix Dumpster Dive. Seeing another culture’s sense of humor and cinematic style in such bizarre situations fascinates me. Our movie for today is, however, not Japanese, but Chinese, and it is a doozy. If you go to watch this movie after reading this review, be warned: you will be confused.
The Midnight After caught my eye while I was searching for movies last month. I decided on In Order of Disappearance first, but The Midnight After seemed very interesting, and right up my alley. This movie is a satirical horror film, which means that yes, I’m back on horror. I found the move in the Comedy category on Netflix, just as I did with In Order of Disappearance. I’ll be damned if I didn’t laugh. See, this isn’t one of those “so bad it’s good” films: it has intentional humor to it. Granted, this humor is weird, and often morbid, but it gets the job done. I found myself laughing more often than anything else. Now, given I don’t have a great understanding of Hong Kong’s society, much of the satire may have been lost on me. That, however, does not take away from the movie’s comedic value at all.
Something I was on the fence about with The Midnight After is the plot. It rides the line between interestingly weird and incoherent often. I know what happened, just not why. I know a ton of information and plot points that could have related to characters’ arcs, but not all of it was used. And, most importantly, in my eyes, the conclusion was incredibly unsatisfying. I should say, that this film is based on a web-novel entitled Lost on a Red Minibus to Tai Po. I have not read the book itself, but the Wikipedia article for the film states that The Midnight After did not use all of the content from the source material, and the director, Fruit Chan, said a sequel was possible, but it is not guaranteed. I hope that there will be a sequel, for the sake of wrapping up a lot of the plotlines that seemed unnecessary once the movie was over. I truly mean that- there was so much set up that just flat out didn’t amount to anything. Some of it was interesting to the characters’ development, but comes off as awkward due to the lack of payoff. I enjoyed the journey, but this movie writes a lot of checks, and most of them seemed to bounce at the end.
One incredibly standout factor in this movie is the characters. Each of them is unique and has an arc, granted some more than others. I enjoyed every actor’s performance, it really felt like they all knew their characters, and that helped bring the personalities presented to life even more. I especially enjoyed Auyeung/Mr. Impotence in spite of his small role, as well as Shun and Uncle Fat. That is not to say that the others weren’t outstanding either. I felt real empathy and contempt when they were needed, and found myself attached to nearly everyone by the end.
Many horror films rely on cheap jump scares or overused tropes to really invoke a sense of discomfort in the audience. In The Midnight After, satire meets real horror in a way that is refreshing, and slightly unnerving. Not all the effects are perfect, and some of the comedic tone draws away from the horror, but when the movie gets at you with a situation, it gets at you hard. There are some intense concepts brought up that made me squirm a bit, and some ideas that, while not shown with the best of visuals, are unnerving to consider happening to oneself. As far as the horror aspect, I’d say there was just as much success as with comedy.
There is something I should revisit, and that is the confusion factor in The Midnight After. I said it once, and I will say it again: you will be confused. This sometimes took away from my enjoyment of the plot, but it also engaged me in the humor more. I also watch many of these types of films because that confusion is what allures me so much. I like how different cinema becomes when you step into such a different culture. To some, this may be off-putting, but for those like me, who want a fun fever dream, it’s absolutely thrilling. If you like art or surrealist films, there are points in The Midnight After that take those styles and make them more grounded. Strange, but that’s the fun of it.
Overall, The Midnight After is a movie much more about the journey than the destination. That journey is paved with moments of shock and disorientation, and ends in a place that leaves more to be desired, but damn it if it wasn’t a fun one. I think this movie would benefit greatly from a sequel, but it is no guarantee, so I have to judge it on what we do have. I’d recommend it on the conditions of: you don’t mind being confused by a movie, you don’t mind reading subtitles an entire movie, and you can accept that you’re going for a long ride that ends in the middle of nowhere. I enjoyed myself, in spite of my frustration toward the conclusion, and I believe that with an open mind, many others will as well.
Overall Personal Rating: 6/10 (Might reconsider in event of a sequel)
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed, and if you want to see more Netflix Dumpster Dive, feel free to follow the site. You can also follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/VCRwrite. Also check out my book in the menu above if you feel so inclined. Thanks again!
©2017 Vincent C. Russo. All Rights Reserved.
I claim no rights to any film mentioned here. All rights to these films and the images used go to their respective owners. This post is intended for review only, and constitutes fair use.