Shooting began on this three-part Korean anthology film back in 2006, with writer-directors Yim Pil-Sung (‘Hansel and Gretel’) and Kim Jee-Woon (‘A Tale of Two Sisters’) each presenting a different apocalyptic vision. But financing fell apart before the final instalment could be shot, and it was only in 2010 that Yim secured the funds to complete the film. The result is patchy, loopy, fascinating and very enjoyable.
The first, messiest and nastiest tale conflates disease and zombie movie clichés, then adds a queasy layer of clean-freak germ paranoia for a fun but slightly overfamiliar schlock-splat comedy. The second presents a radical shift in tone, as a serving robot in a Buddhist monastery achieves cosmic consciousness. It’s beautifully photographed and ingeniously constructed – joining the dots between Buddhist simplicity and a machine’s emotional ‘blankness’, and between religious obeisance and robotic functionality – but the segment suffers from a lack of focus and dubious subtitling.
But it all comes together in the final segment, as a young girl’s misbehaviour miraculously sends a giant alien pool-ball meteorite on a collision course with earth. Bizarre, brilliantly paced and performed, and genuinely funny – a series of asides featuring a dysfunctional TV news team are hysterical – this final act elevates ‘Doomsday Book’ from an intriguing experiment to a joyful, absurdist treat.