Toronto After Dark, Day 4: Doomsday Book
Doomsday Book is an anthology of three shorts by Korean directors Jee-woon Kim and Pil-Sung Yim. Only loosely related in theme by an existential thread, it’s best to examine each of these chapters individually.
Chapter one is Brave New World, a zombie genesis tale and perhaps a cautionary commentary on the safety of our food chain. It follows the rapid unravelling of society after tainted meat sparks an outbreak of zombie-like infection, which spreads across South Korea. Politics and social commentary quickly devolve as people try to grapple with the epidemic. There is some quite unsavoury imagery; you may never look at a green bin the same way again.
Chapter two is Heavenly Creature, a story about a robot in a Bhuddist monastery who may have achieved enlightenment. This is a deeply philosophical piece examining both the possibility and dangers of robotic sentience. Most of the time is spent within a single room, very wordy, as the issue is debated from many perspectives. This one is for the thinkers, and if you’re unfamiliar with the basic ideas of Eastern philosophy, this may prove a difficult bit to sit through.
Chapter three is Happy Birthday, a weirdly funny tale of the coming apocalypse, as an asteroid hurtles towards the earth, and one family prepares for its destruction. Events do not unfold as you might expect, and while the needle here jumps between the absurd and the implausible, it is still generally enjoyable. Some bits with news anchors reporting on the imminent destruction are wacky fun.
All of these shorts are beautifully shot, from the austerity of the monastery to the sparse landscape of a world reborn. The entire compilation suffers a distinct lack of tonal balance, both between the individual stories and within them as well. The first and third stories, each a mix of absurdity and horror, feel like bookends to the languid and meditative middle chapter.
For an existential work, it has surprisingly little to say. Each of the stories leaves the viewer with some food for thought, but these amount to mere morsels, not the full-sized meal we might hope for.
2.5 out of 5 stars.