ContactSales: China Film Promotion International, Beijing (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: China, 24 Dec 2010.
Presented by Beijing Dadu Sunshine Film & TV Production (CN), Sichuan Tenglong Film (CN). Executive producers: Liu Jianmin, Shi Ke. Producers: Ding Weimin, Zhang Yi, Zhang Jiabei.
Script: Zhao Ben. Original story: Yu Chuansong. Photography: Nakazawa Masayuki. Editing: Jia Cuiping. Music: Yasuda Fumio. Art direction: Li Chuanyong. Sound: Yu Qiang.
Cast: Simon Yam (Dr. Gu Zhensheng), Francis Ng (Dr. Mai Xiangyu), Yang Yuyu (Xia Xiaoyu), Yao Di (Nurse Wu Xinyao), Li Nian (Wen Miao, Mai's fiancee), Liu Yuxin (Xia Xue, Gu's late wife), Ba Duo (Hong, mortuary attendant), Yang Shuting (Lin Xiang), Li Zhaomin (Wen, hospital director), Zhang Feng (Liu Dahua), Zhao Yi (Tao Zhenyu), Guo Wei, Wang Yiqun, Peng Naqi, Gao Ming, Yao Xinyue, Tian Meizhu, Zhang Nasi, Xu Yingping.
Midnight Beating 午夜心跳
Contemporary mystery horror
2010, colour, 1.85:1, 87 mins
Directed by Zhang Jiabei (張加貝)
By Derek Elley
Thu, 07 July 2011, 15:18 PM (HKT)
Okay hospital horror boasts good technique but is let down by a weak script. Genre events, plus some ancillary.
Haibei municipality, Qinghai province, China, the present day. In Haibei People's Hospital, on the night of a full moon, an elderly female patient is murdered in Room 314 by a syringe through her chest. The hospital's heart surgeon Gu Zhensheng (Simon Yam) is called in, and the incident adds further strain to him, having recently lost his wife Xia Xue (Liu Yuxin) from a terminal illness. Ever since, Gu has been suffering from nightmares that has affected his work, and Xia Xue's younger sister, Xia Xiaoyu (Yang Yuyu), who is a nurse at the hospital, has also been emotionally disturbed. Meanwhile, Wen Miao (Li Nian), the daughter of the hospital director (Li Zhaomin), is due for an operation for a weak heart. She's the fiancee of Mai Xiangyu (Francis Ng), the hospital's psychologist, who has become the target of a hate campaign by his former girlfriend Wu Xinyao (Yao Di), who also works as a nurse at the same hospital. Wu can't forgive him for dumping her, and threatens to show his fiancee old photos of them making love. One September night, Wu is murdered in the same way as the old female patient. Gu tells hospital director Wen that Mai has been acting strangely lately, and Mai also tells him the same thing about Gu.
Billing itself as China's first real horror movie — and flirting extremely closely with the Mainland prohibition on supernatural, ghostly elements — the moderately budgeted Midnight Beating 午夜心跳 (2010) performed creditably against end-of-the-year big guns like Let the Bullets Fly 讓子彈飛 (2010) and If You Are the One II 非誠勿擾Ⅱ (2010) on the back of publicity about having to be re-edited to pass censorship and the presence of two Hong Kong stars, Simon YAM 任達華 and Francis NG 吳鎮宇. In the limited canon of Mainland horror movies (which includes LI Shaohong 李少紅's The Door 門 (2006) and LI Hong 李虹's Curse of Lola 詛咒 (2005), the latter also starring Ng), it's an honourable attempt at Asian psycho-horror. But much more could have been expected with a director of the calibre of ZHANG Jiabei 張加貝 (Cherries 櫻桃 (2007), Dreaming Wall 夢牆 (2009)) at the helm.
Zhang, who studied and worked in Japan, again uses Dreaming Wall d.p. NAKAZAWA Masayuki 中澤正行, whose cold, wintry colours and precise compositions bring a chill to the interiors — almost the entire film is set in an old-fashioned hospital — and which are complemented by the creepy-crawly, musique concrète score (plucked strings, etc.) of YASUDA Fumio 安田芙充央 and a soundtrack that's all creaking doors and ghostly swishes. On a technical level, the movie passes muster as a spooky mystery-horror. The main problem is the script, which is basically a series of red herrings leading up to a simple, thinly-grounded explanation, and the needlesly involved editing, which seems designed simply to confuse the viewer while adding some superficial suspense. Mainland film-makers have yet to crack the psycho-horror code in the way that other North Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong) and some Southeast Asian ones have.
Yam and Ng perform OK but without much conviction. Among the multiple actresses, YAO Di 姚笛 (The Love of Three Smile: Scholar and the Beauty 三笑之才子佳人 (2010)) has the juiciest role as a vengeful bitch, with LI Nian 李念 (the down-to-earth Yuefen in Six Sisters in the War 沂蒙六姐妹 (2009)) scoring more discreet points as the sister-in-law of Yam's character. The Chinese title literally means Midnight Heartbeat.