Despite its seemingly sinister title, the original Doomsday Book (or
Domesday Book to use the archaic spelling) was nothing more than a
comprehensive 1086 British census and land survey, famous for being the
earliest surviving public record of its type. The project took on the
seemingly tongue-in-cheek appellation ‘Doomsday’ due to the fact its
contents were so comprehensive as to be comparable to the information
that would be obtained by Christ during the Final Judgement. OK?
That’s the history lesson out of the way.
This Doomsday Book is a triptych of short films by two of South
Korea’s most renowned directors, namely Kim Ji-woon (The Good, the
Bad, the Weird) and Yim Pil-sung, creator of the masterful and
criminally overlooked 2007 horror-thriller Hansel and Gretel.
Connected thematically if not by narrative, each of these three
apocalyptic stories takes a unique view of the end of the world.
blackly humorous first section, ‘Brave New World,’ was directed by Yim
and depicts Korea as ground zero for a global zombie pandemic that is
unwittingly started by unlucky in love scientist Seok-woo, whose quest
for romance is further hampered when he ends up inadvertently poisoning
his date (The Chaser’s stunning Ko Joon-he). The second film,
helmed by Kim, is a glossily high-tech musing on the nature of
artificial intelligence entitled ‘Heavenly Creature’ that is everything
I, Robot should have been and depicts the director at the top of
his game. Finally we have the closing instalment, ‘Happy Birthday,’ a
loose collaboration between both directors which is the probably the
most out-there of the three sections, focusing on a giant asteroid-sized
8-ball making its way towards the planet.
turns funny, zany and frightening, Doomsday Book blends brevity
with social conscience and constitutes a clever and compelling turn from
these two immensely talented directors. For short films the segments
aren’t particularly short, running an average of 40 minutes each and
exploring their respective themes and subject matter in an impressive
amount of detail. While it may not reach the heights of the directors’
previous films like A Bittersweet Life and I Saw the Devil,
Doomsday Book is still a cogent and satisfyingly creepy
exploration of a perennial theme and further proof, if proof be needed,
that the Koreans are the undisputed masters of present day Pan-Asian
handful of Eastern Eye Trailers (including one for the peerless Korean
film Bedevilled), though the feature’s 2-hour running time
doesn’t exactly leave you feeling short changed.