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Time for so-so Singapore horror.

Rod Lott June 25th, 2013

What we call 11:59 p.m., those in the military call 23:59. What Singapore calls 23:59, we Americans call ... well, same thing: 23:59. Numbers tend to translate very well.


In the opening scene of writer/director Gilbert Chan’s film, we also learn that if someone dies at that time, one minute until midnight, his or her soul will not rest in peace. Tan (newcomer Tedd Chan) tells his fellow recruits this while regaling them with ghost stories on the floor of their barracks. They’re in their last week of basic training at an island army base.

During the soldiers' final road march, which takes place around you-know-when, a spirit pops up along the route, resulting in someone’s death. The untimely demise is hardly the last of spooky encounters among the young men, and such events are not confined to the great outdoors, either.

Purportedly “inspired by a true ghost story” (whatever that means), per the cover of Magnet's DVD and Blu-ray, 23:59 is a low-wattage tale of spirits and possession that has the feeling of folklore. Being highly steeped in Singaporean culture, where a piece of paper placed on the forehead is thought to ward off demons, the film may play better the more you share with its belief system.

As is, I found the movie to be a little slow, even at its abbreviated 78 minutes, but not quite dull. If it never gets into third or fourth gear, either, one still can enjoy the ride — it looks great, especially the opening credits, rendered in layered illustrations that recall particularly effective pages of horror manga.

Magnet’s disc includes trailers and 23:02 of behind-the-scenes footage, to which they should have added 57 more seconds just for kicks. —Rod Lott

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