Korean Film Review – Doomsday Book

Directed by Kim Ji-woon, Yim Pil-seong

Sci-fi anthology / 113 minutes

One film I was looking forward to catching on DVD was the science-fiction apocalyptic-thriller “Doomsday Book,” directed by Kim Ji-woon and Yim Pil-seong. The winner of the Cheval Noir Award for best film during last year’s Fantasia International Film Festival in Canada, not only did it look like a sci-fi existentialist journey, but Kim Ji-woon is the acclaimed director of “A Tale of Two Sisters” and “I Saw The Devil.” Needless to say, I was pretty excited to finally see this.

“Doomsday Book” is split into three different stories, the first being “Brave New World,” which focuses on research scientist Seok-woo. His family has gone on holiday without him and the horror ensues because he has to take out the trash while they are gone. One piece of the rubbish in the pile is a toxic rotten apple that finds its way into feed for cows, thus infecting the animals, which in turns infects the humans who eat the cows, which in turn transforms them into flesh-eating zombies.

The second story, “Heavenly Creatures,” is set in a world where automatons are a regular part of daily life, from pet robot dogs to RU4 androids that are employed as cleaners. A young technician is called out to a Buddhist monastery to investigate whether their particular RU4 android is faulty, or if it has indeed achieved enlightenment like it claims. 

The end of the world is nigh in the final story, “Happy Birthday,” after Min-seo loses her father’s beloved eight-ball and orders a replacement online. Several years later, the 8-ball is being delivered, but it’s the size of a small country and is on a collision course with Earth.

It came as a bit of a surprise to see the film was separated into three totally unrelated sections, because most of the marketing material, including the bulk of the trailer and all the posters, focused on “Heavenly Creatures.” But it is clear to see why, as it was by far the strongest segment. It really was a thought-provoking piece about what it means to be human and how tough it is when one is forced to question one’s own faith.

Seeing as there is no direct relationship between the segments, the first and final stories come across as public service announcements warning against the evils of not recycling your rubbish or making sure we tell the truth. If the two stories had had the same serious tone as “Heavenly Creatures,” I might have enjoyed them more. And with nothing to tie the narratives together, the film feels devoid of any real purpose or message. Obviously the jury at the Fantasia International Film Festival disagrees, but after hearing about the awards the film won and waiting for such a long time to see it, I was left feeling a little disappointed.

Categories: Reviews

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