Review: '2359: The Haunting Hour' anthology starts strong but stumbles midway

Marcus Goh
PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

Army horror stories have a special place in every Singaporean male’s heart. Like roller coaster rides, they’re probably the safest and most convenient way to experience some measure of excitement and unpredictability, especially when you’re an NSF who’s stuck in camp. Besides “which camp are you from”, they’re the second best ice-breaker when it comes to talking to other random Singaporean male strangers — and they’re the basis for local horror film 2359: The Haunting Hour.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

A sequel of sorts to 2011’s 2359, 2359: The Haunting Hour is an anthology film of three army-themed horror stories. It starts with a genuinely terrifying sequence, which leverages on time-tested horror movie techniques to scare the audience — i.e., no cheap jump scares. Instead, it makes use of the viewer’s imagination and an incredibly relatable scenario to evoke fear in the viewers. Like all good Asian horror films, the frights come from the fact that the supernatural could dwell in the safest, most innocuous of everyday places, rendering us vulnerable even in our common refuges.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

The stories take place across different time periods, as evidenced by the different uniforms worn in each story. The first story, about a group of soldiers who unearth an ancient evil, is set in the 1960s and spooks because it preys on our fear of the unknown. It’s a good tale to begin the anthology with and truly has the mood and tone of a horror film. Unfortunately, it goes downhill from there.

That’s because the second story in the film is one big phallic joke. A group of commandos in the 1980s are beset by a snake spirit which is out to seduce them. Visually and tonally, it’s a jarring and slapstick ghost story which attempts to garner some laughs by repeatedly showing a female spirit heading for the loins of a soldier, followed by a shot of said soldier in bliss. It’s mildly amusing, but it completely detracts from the artistic style of the first story. One might even say that this part of the film was trying to appeal to the Ah Boys to Men crowd, which seems like the wrong target audience to go for in a horror film.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

The final narrative, which also serves as a framing story for the rest of the ghostly tales, suffers from an illogical premise (imaginary online girlfriend is, somehow, a supernatural creature) and a narrator who cannot speak properly. You see, the stories are semi-narrated by the protagonist of the last story. While he does have the acting chops to pull off the role of a somewhat creepy loner, the voiceover narration leaves much to be desired. He’s supposed to be a writer, a person fluent in the English language — yet the fumbling narration completely contradicts his characterisation. To top it off, the story is only tangentially related to the army. Most of it takes place online or in a civilian setting, which makes it an odd fit. It’s more of a science fiction story, rather than a horror one.

The different directorial styles of 2359: The Haunting Hour don’t mesh, which means that the film as a whole feels disjointed. Fortunately, it means that the strongest stories are at the start of the movie. This means that horror buffs can leave after the first tale concludes, since the other two don’t belong in the genre. 2359: The Haunting Hour should have released the first story as a chilling short film, instead of letting it be watered down by two other unrelated tales.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? No.

Score: 2.5/5 (overall), 4.0/5 (first story), 1.0/5 (second story), 2.5/5 (third story)

Running time: 89 minutes

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

2359: The Haunting Hour is a Singaporean horror anthology film consisting of three stories. It is a sequel to 2011’s 2359.

The film sees three Singapore army-related stories unfolding in the ’60s, ’80s and 2010s respectively.

The film is overseen and written by Gilbert Chan. It stars Mark Lee (Encik Teo), Wang Lei (SAFEX), Noah Yap (Seng), Richie Koh (Desmond), Melody Low (Tiffany), Natalia Ng (Snake Spirit), and Fabian Loo (Tommy). It is rated PG-13.

PHOTO: Golden Village Pictures

Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter, having written for popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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