Suddenly at Midnight marks an important film not just in South Korea but also for the horror genre but it wouldn’t be until 2017’s Blu-Ray release by Mondo Macabro that a worldwide audience would fully appreciate its strengths.
Filled with haunting imagery that would symbolise the Asian horror scene and influence the next wave of film makers, Director Ko Young-nam cleverly weaves together Yoon Sam-yook’s screenplay using themes of jealousy, anxiety, and mistrust at its core.
When a wealthy biology professor, Kang Yu-jin returns home with a young housemaid, Mi-ok, in his care, his wife Seon-hee begins to feel the green tinge of jealousy creep over her. Mi-ok is young and attractive, and Seon-hee feels that she is now too old to contain her husband’s affections. These affections also appear to dwindle from her perception, but is it merely a case that Kang Yu-jin is simply a workaholic, self-consumed with his studies, and that all of this is all the matter of the mind?
The screenplay manipulates our own interpretations, swaying between one train of thought to the other. It doesn’t help that Mi-ok is a little strange herself, at first meek and mild, but then playful and secretive. Also, she harbours a curious doll in her room that begins to haunt Seon-hee’s nightmares. Furthermore, there are question marks over Mi-ok’s character as we learn that she is the daughter of a shaman priestess, so is she in fact the one manipulating those in the household, using the dark arts to wield her true means?
All these questions oscillate before our eyes, hypnotising our thoughts and shifting our interpretations with every scene like a pendulum, drawing us to a conclusion from which we continue to query which side of the story we ultimately fall upon.
It’s great viewing, and its heightened sense of paranoia craftily plays with our minds through some strong performances and a delicately balanced pace to its narrative that keeps you ensnared.
- Saul Muerte