Title: Doomsday Book
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Director: Pil-sung Yim
Screenwriters: Pil-sung Yim
Starring: Doona Bae, Joon-ho Bong, Ji-hee Jin
Screened at the 2012 Fantasia Film Festival
Doomsday Book is a trilogy of Korean sci-fi/horror shorts with a single common parameter: each takes place shortly before some sort of apocalyptic event on Earth. The first and last entries are written and directed by Yim Pil-Sung (Hansel and Gretel), and are rambling, occasionally clever comic vignettes. The opener, called Brave New World presents a fairly pedestrian zombie apocalypse, while the closer, Happy Birthday, is about a girl who accidentally sends a deadly meteor hurtling toward the planet by ordering a replacement billiard ball on the internet. Happy Birthday is at least memorably weird, but Brave New World is pretty much zombie movie-of-the-week. Both, though, are notable for Yim’s truly inspired takes on the Korean media going apeshit: at various points I would have been content to just keep watching his newscast montages rather than return to the films proper.
By far the most intriguing section of Doomsday Book, Kim Jee-Woon’s Heavenly Creatures, is sandwiched in the middle. Kim is well-known in the States for twisted, envelope-pushing genre films like A Tale of Two Sisters, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and I Saw the Devil, but Heavenly Creatures is sedate and literally meditative, being a quiet little sci-fi curio about a robot in a Buddhist monastery who, to the horror of his creators, achieves enlightenment. The subject is a bit uncinematic, and Kim tries to compress a century’s worth of metaphysical debate into 40 minutes – there are lots of speeches and long conversations, which are visually rendered for the robot with a cheesy little pulsating blue light. But he also takes the Buddhist part of his conceit surprisingly seriously, and presents easily the anthology’s subtlest, most chilling vision of the apocalypse. If Doomsday Book is worth seeing, it’s for the middle installment.
— Eugene Novikov