My friend, the Hobbyist, developed a deep interest in all things Korean a few years back. By proximity, this has exposed me to great Korean food, film, TV, language, customs and music. I was impressed with the Korean film makers so I continued that thread independently.
Doomsday Book caught my eye for its sci-fi bent and I was curious about the Korean viewpoint. The film is actually 3 shorter running stories which all have an apocalyptic theme.
Story 1: Brave New World. A good-hearted but overly anxious guy is trying too hard to impress a date at a Korean BBQ restaurant. Little does he know that he will soon eat a piece of mutated beef and wind up a zombie. Like all zombie apocalypse films, zombism spreads like wildfire and soon the world is a chaotic mess filled with flesh eating creatures on a rampage. However, the ending had a unusual twist reminding me a little of Shaun of Dead.
Story 2: Heavenly Creature. Very interesting and for me this was best of the lot, but likely a little too much in the philosophical vein for mass appeal. In a future world robots take care of the drudgery, even in monasteries. The setting is a Buddhist temple in which their robot has developed an unusual condition – he’s become enlightened. The coverage of Buddhist principles is good. The contrast between the materialism of the robot’s creators and the robot’s sense of spirituality is disarming but compelling. The ending is good, particularly the reactions from the monks as they watch the robot’s final answer to the conflict he encounters with his creators.
Story 3: Happy Birthday. A young girl breaks her dad’s 8-ball and orders a replacement off the web. Fast forward two years, the Earth is about to be destroyed by a huge meteor on a collision course. Oh, the meteor, its the 8-ball the girl ordered. Something about cell phone signals and black holes, and blah, blah, blah. At fist I thought this might be a spin on the Butterfly Effect, it wasn’t. This was the weakest story of the lot, sometimes coming off as a spoof on apocalypse films, other times taking itself seriously, all the while attempting to be philosophical but only as much as a stream of disconnected platitudes.
Three Korean directors all bring their version of an apocalyptic vision to your screen. While one faltered on storyline and direction, all were very well done in terms of production style, each very different. For fans of Korean cinema, apocalypse themes or sci-fi, Doomsday Book is good watch.