If there’s one basic rule of cinema, it’s that anthology films are more often than not average. It’s hard enough to make one good film, but making three or more solid short movies that tie together can be quite a challenge. South Korea looks to tackle this challenge with ‘Doomsday Book’ featuring directors Kim Jee-Woon (I Saw the Devil, Tale of Two Sisters) and Yim Pil-Sung (Hansel and Gretel). With the threat of the Mayan Apocalypse looming large, seriously we’re all gonna die, Doomsday Book looks to capitalize on that theme with three short movies tied together by the threat of the end of the world.
We get started with Yim Pil-Sung’s ‘A Brave New World’ which follows a nerdy, young scientist on his search for love while unknowingly starting the zombie apocalypse. I liked the premise of how the outbreak started. Throwing away a rotten apple that ends up in cow feed which then ends up on our protagonist’s dinner plate. It’s always nice getting to root for the nerd trying to get the girl, but once the zombification starts to happen, the story starts to peter out. Shots of humor are injected into the storyline, but this one ends up being the weakest of the bunch.
The middle feature, Kim Jee-Woon’s ‘Heavenly Creature’, tells the story set in the future when a robot seemingly has gained enlightenment at a Buddhist temple. This short is by far the most serious and interesting section of Doomsday Book as we contemplate the meaning of existence and what it really would mean to humans if a robot could gain enlightenment so easily, an achievement some humans fight for their whole lives to never even reach it. Heavenly Creature ends up being extremely dialogue heavy once the manufacturers of the company catch wind of this “defective” machine and decide to take matters into their own hands. Being only about 40 minutes in runtime, it would benefit from an extension into a full length film. If you can get past that fact, then sit back and enjoy this thought-provoking tour through philosophy.
Yim Pil-Sung returns to wrap up the film with ‘Happy Birthday’. A little girl who orders an 8-ball off of a weird website ends up sending an 8-ball shaped asteroid straight toward Earth, threatening all of mankind. Extremely weird and goofy premise aside, this short has plenty to offer. The little girl does a wonderful job of acting once she finds out that the weight of the world is upon her shoulders. This short plays out as more of a comedy than anything and excels in doing so. Once the asteroid is heading toward Earth, the TV shopping network selling “life pods” is great and the unraveling news reporters is especially hilarious with all of their infidelities coming to light.
Doomsday Book plays out like other anthologies with its hits and misses, but it ranges from good to very good. Any fan of science fiction or South Korean cinema should certainly enjoy this showing.