Midnight (2021) poster

Midnight (2021)



South Korea. 2021.


Director/Screenplay – Kwon Oh-seung, Producer – Kim Hyun-woo, Photography – Cha Taek-gyun, Music – Whang Sang-jun, Special Effects Supervisor – Lee Dong-ho, Makeup Effects – Pee Dae-sung, Production Design – Lee Byung-jan. Production Company – Peppermint & Company.


Ki Joo-jin (Kim Kyung-mi), Wi Ha-joon (Do Shik), Park Moon (Choi Jong Tak), Kim Hye-yoon (Choi So Jung), Kil Hae-yeon (Kyung-mi’s mother), Lee Sang-hee (Drunk)


The serial killer Do Shik prowls the streets of Seoul, abducting women. Police officer Choi Jong Tak is concerned for his sister So Jung’s safety as she goes out on a date, only for her to be attacked by Do Shik. Kim Kyung-mi is a deaf worker at a call centre. She picks up her mother, who is also deaf, after a work function only to come across So Jung being attacked by Do Shik in an alleyway. Kyung-mi makes a getaway without seeing Do Shik’s face. Do Shik follows, coming across Kyung-mi and her mother as they call the police, where he convinces them that he has lost his sister. However, at the police station, Kyung-mi and her mother deduce that he is the killer. Afterwards, Do Shik follows them home and makes a determined effort to pursue Kyung-mi.

South Korean Cinema has become a powerhouse of phenomenal talent and output since the 1990s, largely due to healthily government subsidies and investment in the film industry. Midnight was a directorial debut for Kwon Oh-seung.

Midnight should not to be confused with several other films with the same title including the slasher film Midnight (1982) or Midnight (1988) with Lynn Redgrave as a horror hostess. It resembles a bunch of thrillers that focus around a protagonist with a disability, usually blindness, ranging from the likes of The Spiral Staircase (1946) to Jennifer Eight (1992) and Blink (1994). The work it comes the closest to is actually Mike Flanagan’s Hush (2016) with Kate Siegel as a deaf woman stalked by a serial killer at her home in the woods.

It is not long before Kwon Oh-seung gets an intensive grip on the film. This is more than evident at the scene at the police station where mother and daughter Ki Joo-jin and Kil Hae-yeon are taken, along with killer Wi Ha-joon who is pretending to be a man who has lost his daughter. The women’s conversation in sign language starts to expose their suspicions about Wi Ha-joon and whether he is telling the truth at the same time as he becomes aware of them but is trying to keep up a facade for the police desk clerk. The multiple levels that everything takes place on in the course of the conversation is head-spinning.

Serial killer Do Shik (Wi Ha-joon) in Midnight (2021)
Serial killer Do Shik (Wi Ha-joon)
Ki Joo-jin and her mother Kil Hae-yeon in Midnight (2021)
Kim Kyung-mi (Ki Joo-jin) (r) and her mother (Kil Hae-yeon) (l)

Kwon Oh-seung also uses the soundtrack to great effect, switching point-of-view between what we hear people saying and Ki Joo-jin’s deaf silence, none the more so than the dinner party scene where we shoft between her making rude sign language comments about her co-workers and they drunkenly taking it to mean she is enjoying herself. Or with her trying to measure where Ha-joon is by the sound-activated lights in the apartment as Kwon Oh-seung abruptly switches viewpoints between her silence to the loud battering at the door.

The scenes with Ki Joo-jin in the apartment as Ha-joon breaks in come with great tension – with she at one point trying to jump out the window and land on a pile of junk in the alley, only for he to grab her, leaving her hanging by her hair in mid-air. The most uneasy parts come as pursuing cop Park Moon is forced by Ha-joon to make the terrible choice between saving Ki Joo-jin or rushing off to find his abducted sister. Or the scenes where Ki Joo-in is fleeing through the crowded streets at night, begging help from people around her and everyone is panicking as she waves a knife, at the same time as Ha-joon comes, assuring people that she is just his distraught sister – all of which gets satisfyingly turned on its head in the finale.

All give excellent performances. Especially so Wi Ha-joon, a rising name in Korean cinema, who does the charmingly ruthless killer with great panache. Ki Joo-in gives a great performance, her best scene of all being the one near the climax where she pleads with Ha-joon not to kill her and goes on to list all the thoroughly banal but touching things she wants to do with her life.

Trailer here

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