23:59 The Haunting Hour Review: A Horror Film That’s Painfully Not Scary

Image: YouTube (SGCloverFilms)

Back in 2011, when many of us were still in diapers and local army movies weren’t exactly a thing yet save for the highly popular Army Daze and Where Got Ghost?, an army-themed movie was released.

Being in the pre-Ah-Boys-to-Men era, no one expected anything, but it went on to get a pretty decent box office, collecting SGD$1.43 million in mere two weeks.

While it is a far cry from the Ah Boys to Men franchise, in which the latest one collected $4.5 million overall, it’s still considered a success and that warranted a sequel, though it came seven years later, which is about right now.

23:59 The Haunting Hour, the much-awaited sequel, was released on National Day (9 August 2018), and starred a new cast while retaining Mark Lee, who doesn’t seem to age a year since the last movie.

With the influx of army movies and the anticipation, 23:59 The Haunting Hour has some big shoes to fill, but unfortunately, it doesn’t meet the expectations.

What It is All About

Just like Where Got Ghost?, the movie has three different stories: one’s set in 1967 when soldiers wore Temasek Green uniform, one in the 1980s and the last one in a contemporary setting.

All three stories are separate from each other, written by a BMT recruit who somehow can afford a car and have bunkmates that are more horrifying than real ghosts.

Each story is short and…for the lack of a better word, ‘pointless’. In fact, I can summarize each story in one sentence; here goes (spoilers ahead…though I’m sure it doesn’t matter ‘coz you can’t spoil a story that doesn’t have a story).

Story 1: Soldiers went AWOL in a jungle without their rifles and got killed by a Japanese soldier ghost.

Story 2: Soldiers are haunted and seduced by a snake spirit, and it’s up to one soldier to kill her.

Story 3: A soldier found love online, only to realize that it’s a ghost looking to avenge her death (so shocking?!)

It’s like reading True Singapore Ghost Stories minus the stories and the Russell Lee: each story is so bland, I’m thinking of adding salt to them.

But a horror film is never about the story, isn’t it? It’s all about the jump scares. And that’s exactly where it falls short.

Jump Scares That Don’t Jump & Don’t Scare

We all know jump scares: the sudden loud scream that would jerk the entire row of seats, the sudden revelation that send popcorns flying and the unexpected yell that’ll make even the manliest man shiver.

It doesn’t matter whether the horror flick has a plot, has The Rock as its star or has the highest production budget: as long as there are jump scares that work, it’d have won the audience.

23:59 The Haunting Hour teases audience with jump scares that never come, or one that’s so predictable, people know when to close their eyes (and ears).

For example, when the music starts to hint at a jump scare, the scene just ends. Or if there is a jump scare, it comes at precisely the moment you expected it.

I mean, that’s common in the 90s when jump scares were new, but now, it’s all about misleading others about jump scares and then…

Right?

I ain’t a filmmaker but when I almost fall asleep in a cinema while watching a horror film, it says a lot.

Then Again, It Could All Be About Business

The movie is rated PG13, which means technically, kids can still watch it. That creates a much bigger audience size for the film, since it can be a movie for a family outing.

Considering the nature of horror film, having that rating for a horror film is like having the Healthier Choice Symbol on a fast food: it’s almost an oxymoron.

Maybe having it in NC16 or M18 (e.g. the other horror film in cinema now, Unfriended: Dark Web, has a M18 rating) might affect box office numbers drastically, and every movie needs to make money after all.

Conclusion? The Singapore market is just too small.

Watch it, Or Not?

To be honest, there isn’t any option right now: If you’re done with Mission: Impossible – Fallout, you might want to consider this since it’s, after all, a local movie. Mark Lee and Wang Lei do steal the show with their smooth comedic lines, and it could have been a splendid comedy / horror film should they be in the entire movie instead of just in the second story.

But if you really want some real horror flicks, just stay at home and Netflix.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

(P.S. The 2 stars is for the chio snake spirit who doesn’t even say a single word in the entire movie and of course, for Mark Lee and Wang Lei)