Daria Gamliel for Cinetalk.net

In a jokingly nicknamed Beta version of martial law, Manila is nearly utopic. Nearly, but not quite. The war on drugs still rages on. Cops are still a threat to ordinary citizens. There is a rumor that people caught out after midnight never come home due to mysterious “blackouts”.

Dodo Dayao’s Midnight in a Perfect World rationalizes that the police are shutting down the electricity grid to scare and trap people outdoors after curfew. For this reason, so-called safe houses have cropped up throughout the city. Mimi (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) and her friends have the misfortune to suddenly be caught in what they learn is a very real blackout.

After finding a safe house, they realize they’ve lost one of their friends in the darkness. What follows is a series of dimly shot sequences, interspersed with cellphone-lit action. Corinne De San Jose’s clever sound design creates an atmosphere of extreme discomfort. Since most of the film unfolds in the dark, sound is used to help build fear in the viewer. It’s scary because we don’t know what’s happening, or what the characters can see or cannot see. 

Things are not as they appear, even when the lights are on. There might be something at play more sinister than cops or drugs. It is not a perfect film, however, it is very interesting and seriously unnerving. Chilling in an understated way. 


Fantasia Film Festival 2020 runs from August 5th to August 25th. 2020.

Midnight in a Perfect World – On Demand until Friday, August 27th, 11:59 PM (yes, even though the festival officially closes on August 25th).

Official Fantasia Website