Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Midnight After (2013): The Best Philip K Dick Adaptation that Wasn't

The Midnight After (2013)
(aka Lost on a Red Minibus to Taipo)
dir: Fruit Chan

SIFF 2014: Film 2

This is the second film I’ve seen that came from a web story/novel, the first being the rather insane John Dies at the End, which was a novel originally published as a web serial. The Midnight After is based on a web novel by Mr. Pizza on the internet forum HKGolden. And, yes, it’s as insane and episodic as John Dies at the End.

The Midnight After is a Hong Kong take on Philip K Dick’s book Ubik, with a lot of changes. A group of 17 people on a minibus go through a tunnel late at night and end up in a world totally devoid of humans except themselves. As they realize something might be amiss, suddenly they start dying strange deaths. A lot of spoilery things happen, including a spectacular musical number set to a famous David Bowie song. But, I don’t want to give away much more than that.

Half of the fun of The Midnight After is trying to figure everything out.  But, ironically, if you find it fun, you’ll also find the final scenes incredibly frustrating. The other half of the fun is the batshit insanity that is in The Midnight After. The characters include a spiritual psychic who sells insurance, a constantly bickering married couple, a couple of young punks named Airplane and Crazy Glue, and a druggie who is constantly on cocaine. They ping off each other, come back together, and gather to meet.

I found The Midnight After to be a helluva ride. I wanted more. The ending leaves you wanting more, in fact. It’s drama and science fiction and comedy and horror and musical and everything you could ever want in a movie all thrown in for a single experience. At 120 minutes, it almost runs a little long, and to be fair the movie could have a couple of minor edits where about 5 minutes might be removable. But, to niggle on 5 minutes when the rest of the movie is just a powerhouse rocket where the pacing ebbs and flows with a psychotic mastery seems petty at best.

The Midnight After doesn’t say anything deeper about life other than “Life can move pretty fast sometimes, and if you don’t appreciate it, you might miss it” and “Be good to each other.” But, that doesn’t matter because the film is all about the experience. It’s a blast, it’s fun, it’s something rather interesting, and gives you some stuff to chew on as you’re watching, so you won’t be bored. Puzzled, sure…but who doesn’t like a good puzzle?

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