Thursday, May 11, 2017

On A Slow Minibus To Hell

I'm on some sort of kick for films about people finding themselves suddenly alone, because here's The Midnight After, which is about a bunch of people boarding a minibus at 2 a.m., and somehow, while they're in a tunnel, everyone else vanishes. They exit the tunnel into a Tai Po devoid of other people, except one of them, and young guy named Yau (or Chi) sees someone in a gas mask, but opts not to mention it to anyone else for several hours. He does that a lot in the movie.

Some of the characters start dying of something, which causes splotches to appear on their skin, and in some cases, their bodies crumble and fall apart. They all get a phone call at the same time that's Morse Code and is lyrics from that David Bowie song about Major Tom, which leads to an extended bit where the one character who recognizes the lyrics basically sings it to them. Yau gets a call from his sister that tells him he's been missing six years. They decide to head for a supposedly abandoned nuclear facility on a mountain, then change their minds and head for Kowloon instead as it starts to rain blood, or red water maybe.

The film isn't entirely serious, which in of itself isn't a problem. Some of the character's backstories, the whys and hows that got them on that minibus are pretty funny. But there's also a sequence where one of the passengers raped one of the other passengers after disembarking, only she died during, and he kept having sex with the corpse. So the rest of them opt to ritually execute the guy by taking turns stabbing him. Which is. . . not what I'd call funny. I guess as a comment on the weird things people get up to when they think civilization has collapsed it might work. Wouldn't have seemed out of place in a Mad Max film, for example, but it's a bizarre shift from that to their preparations to leave a few minutes later, or from the whole thing with the Bowie song maybe a half-hour earlier.

Or the plot thread with the cokehead who hid on the bus to escape some dealers he robbed, fell asleep, and then decided to try and walk home but kept stopping to snort more coke. All that feels like it's making fun of what you see in a lot of post-apocalypse films, people hoarding certain things, or doing goofy shit because they can. But it sits oddly next to raping a dead woman, or people running after a guy on a bike, pleading for help as they die horribly. That part seems less like satire and more straight horror.

Plus, nothing much gets answered. Where the six years went. Why one of the guys in gas masks insists they're trying to help, but the others try to stop the minibus. Why Chi keeps seeing this version of one of the other passengers where she looks like some evil spirit. if you're expecting any of that to get even the most perfunctory, bullshit, handwavey answers, forget about it.

On the other hand, the parts which show them trying to deal with the situation, making a point of sharing contact information to keep connected, and everyone going home, hoping to find loved ones, those parts were pretty good. Those are the parts that interest me, when everything you had to worry about previously is now irrelevant - so long rent! - and what do you do now? What do you want to do now?


Kelvin Green said...

Have you seen The Quiet Earth? That's quite a good "everyone is gone!" film. It used to pop up on the TV all the time here but I haven't seen it in years.

CalvinPitt said...

I don't think I have. I'll have to try and find it.