Toronto After Dark Review: Doomsday Book
Doomsday Book is an anthology film from the minds of famed South Korean directors Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil) and Yim Pil-sung (Hansel & Gretel). The film consists of three unique stories that all explore all the possible fall of mankind. Splitting up the duties behind the camera Yim handles the bookend segments while Kim takes control of the story in the middle. Ranging from zombie comedy to the philosophical, Doomsday Book is a film that really does offer a little something for everyone.
Yim Pil-sung starts things off with his zombie apocalypse comedy “A Brave New World.” The film revolves around a scientist Yoon Seok-woo (Ryu Seung-beom) whose family not only goes on vacation without inviting him, but also leaves him a list of chores to do. One of the duties is to clean out some food that has been left unattended for far too long. Little does he know that the discarded food will end up in a Korean barbeque shop and inadvertently cause a zombie outbreak.
Those looking for zombie related gore should note that the tale is a comedic in tone rather than a straight horror. A good chunk of the humour comes from watching how the zombie plague spreads and the reactions that the non-infected have about the events occurring. The latter part of the film plays up on a rather interesting zombie Adam and Eve parable.
While the zombie story serves as a nice appetizer of sorts, the real meat of Doomsday Book can be found in the middle segment “The Heavenly Creature.” Directed by Kim Jee-woon, the film focuses on Park Do-won (Kim Kang-woo), an IT repairman from a prestigious corporation that designs RU-4 model androids, who is summed to a monastery to service the resident robot, named In-myung. Once a mere helper robot, In-myung seems to have reached a new level of enlightenment. It not only prays with the monks but also spouts philosophical teachings that supersede anything the monks have encountered before.
Despite the monks believing that In-myung is the reincarnation of Budda, the company president clearly thinks that this is merely a case of a malfunctioning robot and orders its destruction. This confrontation between the spiritual and the scientific allows Jee-Woon Kim to delve into mankind’s inherent fear of what they do not understand. There is also a nice commentary on the increasing influence of big corporations on every aspect of life, including religion. Kim’s segment offers much food for thought and features some of the strongest performance in the whole film.
Considering how serious ”The Heavenly Creature” section is, Yim returns to the director’s chair again to lighten up the mood with his zany comedy “Happy Birthday.” After getting rid of her father’s prized 8-ball, young Park Min-seo (Jin Ji-hee) tries to order new one from a mysterious website online. A few year’s past and the world is in panic when a meteor, which resembles the 8-ball, is on a collision course for earth. As the end of the world seems near, Min-seo and her family try to seek refugee inside her uncle’s bunker.
Easily the segment with the biggest laughs in the entire film, “Happy Birthday” finds comedic gold when it pokes fun at how the local newscast handles the pending apocalypse. Unfortunate the main storyline involving Min-seo feels far too uneven in tone. It tries to be both a silly comedy and a touching film regarding the importance of family. Yim has several good ideas running throughout the film but they never come together the way they should.
As with most anthology films, Doomsday Book works best if you look at each segment on an individual basis instead of film as a whole. “The Heavenly Creature” is the strongest segment of the bunch and the main reason most will seek out this film. While not every aspect of Doomsday Book works, there is enough in each section to keep even the causal watchers interest.