You would think that a film about the myriad ghost stories that have circulated about Pulau Tekong Camp over the decades would write itself. Of course, the reality is something else altogether. To the credit of director Gilbert Chan and the production team behind 23:59, they have done a good job in conveying the gist and feel of what those timeworn Tekong ghost stories were all about. In fact, for the first half of the movie – with the numerous ‘flashbacks’ of stories – the narrative is rather compelling. However, when the film has to finally tell the story of the era it is set in (1983), then the narrative somewhat falls apart.
Which is a pity because everybody involved in this film has certainly done their utmost to maintain the suspension of disbelief long enough even for the most cynical viewer to ignore the gaping plot flaws that crop up towards the end of the film. The performances are consistent throughout and even veteran comedian Mark Lee gets to deliver choice lines that will have anyone who has ever served NS rolling in their seats.
Which brings me to the point that the film has been well primed for a bigger audience base that one would have thought. Certainly NS men (past and present) will definitely find the storyline intriguing but at the screening I attended, there were many young girls (probably between 12 – 15 years old) who enjoyed the film for the scares and there was a palpable communal vibe throughout – a shared group experience.
Adult viewers (and horror fans) might have hoped for gorier depictions but that would have affected the PG-13 rating and at NC-16, the filmmakers would have lost a sizable chunk of its audience. However, the film makes up for its lack of serious gore with good utilization of sound design to deliver the shocks to the system. Ultimately, it’s a solid Singaporean film that many will be able to relate to in one way or another. Check out the trailer below.
23:59 is showing at a cinema near you right now.