Writer/Director Gilbert Chan breaks into the international Horror scene with the eerie and atmospheric 23:59, which takes its name and ghostly legends from Polynesian folklore. 23:59 assembles a talented group of young actors to play the unfortunate troops in the haunted platoon, with Henley Hii providing a strong lead as the crowd skeptic, Jeremy. It is only through the deaths of his fellow classmates and a few ghastly revelations of his own that Jeremy is able to confront the spirits and put them at ease. Chan offers an even blend of shock and terror through his startling imagery, but leans towards more traditional scares that are built on the deepening mood that surrounds his characters.
One of the recruits, Tan, the introverted platoon outcast, is adamant that he will be the next victim of the mad woman’s spirit. He tries to convince his buddy Jeremy that the woman’s spirit has been visiting him every night. Jeremy laughs it off and claims that there are no such things as ghosts in this world. They only exist because of Tan’s overactive imagination. However, during the 24-km road march for the platoon in the forest, Tan is found dead by the river, with his limbs contorted in a strange way and an expression of deep fear on his face. Overwhelmed with guilt, Jeremy decides to investigate Tan’s death, convinced that it was not an accident as what the military officers believe. Little does he know that the truth behind Tan’s death will unearth a terrible dark secret of the island and he will have to confront his deepest fears in order to find the truth.
So, like I said, the film is set on an Army training base in the Seventh Month, when ghosts and spirits are said to roam free. There are all types of rituals to appease and avoid them, which most people take part in even if they don’t seem to believe. A new group of recruits is just about to finish their training there when things begin to go wrong. This basically deals with the things that all NS men are told or share around the bunk like in the starting scene. Tales and folklores whispered and shared about what they have been told or have overheard etc. For myself, the suspense build up is good as I can relate to it partially but the final third bit is a bit of a let down when most of the plot is revealed. I feel it would have been better if it was kept in suspense and with glimpses instead of the director/producer trying to tie everything up. Other reviewers have commented that there are some loose ends. For me, the most obvious is that how the heck did the Sgt and recruits manage to locate the shack. But in the end, this movie is definitely worth a watch if nothing more then to reminisce about them good old army days!
Whereas American Horror is a baseball bat upside your head, followed by a humorous dispersion and endless exposition, Asian Horror is like a freight train, moving slowing, but building momentum continuously, until you are smack in the middle of the story, and you don’t remember when the scary part actually started. This is true with 23:59. It starts very slowly, and even the characters don’t know what they are in until it is too late. The villain, such as it is in Asian Horror, is a malignant spirit, out for revenge. The cast, works with each other in forming their unit, and with the exception of the main cast, are pretty much homogeneous. It is a steady, but sure scare.