Review: 2359

It was something just waiting to happen, wasn’t it? All those years reading chapter after chapter about haunted army camps in Russell Lee’s “True Singapore Ghost Stories”, all those nights listening to supernatural tales narrated by friends who have enlisted in the armed forces before us, all those moments scaring ourselves silly during guard duty shifts – it all led to this. A feature film about an army ghost story which boys (who have since become men) can identify with.

So it’s only natural that this columnist is curious to find out whether writer-director Gilbert Chan’s debut feature film will send chills down his spine. After all, this self-declared fearless mortal did his part of serving the nation more than 10 years ago. This just means that he did his national service on a five-and-a-half-day week, and beat this – lower allowance. Most importantly, he had slept in one of those run-down bunkers which can easily let your imagination run amok.

Chan’s script tells the story of a group of army recruits staying on an island which is supposedly haunted by an insane woman who died at 23:59. A cowardly soldier claims that the spirit has been visiting him every night. The next thing his fellow recruits know, he is found dead after a route march. Strange things continue happening, and the soldiers’ worst fears come true.

Conceptually, this story does have a lot of potential to scare the hell out of local audiences (especially those who have served their national service offshore). Who isn’t afraid of that strange old lady who appears at the door every time you open your eyes in the middle of the night? Who isn’t freaked out by that strange noise emitting from the bushes whenever you patrol the camp with your buddy? And aren’t you damn sure that there is a pair of eyes watching over you as you leopard crawl through the twigs and branches?

Rated PG13 for horror theme and disturbing scenes, this movie won’t be the scariest picture you would see. Chan tries a little too hard to set up the frights, and although there are a few effective shocks, they are few and far between. Besides the fact these moments come across as cheap scares, what you’d get from a large part of the 78-minute production are soldiers looking disturbed, frightened and anxious.

Headlined by local comedian Mark Lee who does his best to inject some light-hearted moments in the otherwise dreary movie, the decently-produced flick also stars Malaysian stars Henley Hii and Josh Lai. The two good-lookers are convincing as army boys (it’s amazing what a shaved head can do to your acting), but the show is stolen by, err, a badly deformed girl who creeps out from the corner to shock the hell out of unknowing audiences.

That said, marks go the makeup team for creating such a hideous creature. Also, the production values of this averagely-rated movie aren’t too bad. From location scouting and art direction to cinematography and sound design, the team deserves commendation. Maybe it’s just a case of this demanding (and ahem, fearless) columnist who does not know (yet!) the true meaning of fear.

Here's a creepy theatrical trailer to whet your appetite:

A sequel is in the works, and if you have any ghostly experiences to share, write to:​, and you may see your nightmares translated on screen!

Reviewed by John Li

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