- Directed By: Jee Woon Kim, Yim Pil-Sung
- Starring: Kim Kang-woo, Kim Gyu-ri, Park Hae-il, Song Sae-byoek, Jin Ji-hee, Bae Doo-na, Ryoo Seung-bum, Koh Joon-hee
Three shorts comprise distinct glimpses into the end of the world in the Korean film DOOMSDAY BOOK. The end of the world has always been a popular subject with filmmakers of all ilks and in DOOMSDAY BOOK we’re treating to three possible ways the world will end; by zombie outbreak, robot takeover, and a huge Magic 8 Ball plummeting from the sky. It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, except each ending is long and exasperating.
The look of each short film is slick and glossy, giving no indication of the funding troubles that nearly left the film for dead back in 2007. While the tone of each film is consistently uneven, it will provide an interesting look at the Korean film industry for those already familiar with the genre. The first film, Brave New World directed by Yim Pil-Sung takes on the zombie apocalypse that will hit us via toxic apple. The film uses the zombie aspect to turn itself into a parable about the dangers and horrific nature of eating meat. While it does veer between the absurd and the macabre Brave New World can’t quite make up its mind as to what it would like to be. While it’s gory, it’s not quite scary. While it’s political, it’s also too over the top silly to be able to stick to any one political message.
In Heavenly Creature directed by Jee Woon Kim (I Saw the Devil, Tale of Two Sisters) the world as become dependent on robots to support our lifestyle and tend to all our needs. In one Buddist monastary, however, one robot has become self-aware and enlightened. The company that made the robot investigates and decides it is time to terminate the robot, bringing into question, what makes a man and can you become one? The nature of this film easily lends itself to Issac Asimov and Philip K Dick comparisons but it is also the slowest paced and intellectually demanding of the trio. While that’s not a bad thing is amps up the unevenness of the other films which dissolve into the wacky and absurd.
The final film Happy Birthday, also directed Pil-Sung, is about a young girl who orders a Magic 8 Ball from a mysterious website only to have it crash into the earth. And yes, it’s as silly as it sounds. Both Pil-Sung’s entries are heavy on broad comedy and low on genuine emotional connection. He fills both his entries with satire of Korean popular culture which, while I’m sure it’s apt, fails to make much sense in a Western context.
In the sum of its parts, DOOMSDAY BOOK is a frustrating entry into the end of the world genre. While it has moments of fantastic black humor and interesting insight into the human condition, it also flip-flops wildly within the films as to what they want to be. All three entries suffer from too much explanation, overly-scripted moments and a visual smorgasbord of style over substance. While the world may end with a bang and not a whimper, it deserves a more human ending than what any of these films give it.