Doomsday Book (2012) – or – Spiritual sci-fi.

Doomsday Book is an anthology of three short stories. The first is Brave New World. A young man is left at home by his family to clean up while they go on vacation. A series of random events results in the man becoming infected with a virus that slowly turns him into a zombie. The second short is Heavenly Creature, about a robot living in a Buddhist temple who has reached enlightenment. A repairman is sent to decide if the robot is malfunctioning, but the others in the temple believe the robot has become something more. The final story is Happy Birthday. After wrecking her billiards obsessed father’s 8 ball, a young girl orders a new one from the internet. 2 years later, a huge meteor hurtles towards Earth, and it looks just like the giant 8 ball the girl ordered.

On the surface, Doomsday Book is a usual addition to the Toronto After Dark line-up. Robots, zombies, and a massive meteor hurtling towards Earth are things you expect to see at TAD every year. Once the stories begin, you start to realize that this is unlike anything that TAD has screened before. This is the kind of film that will have your group discussing the deeper meanings for hours after. Each short seems to have a lot to do with religion, spirituality, life, death, and everything in between. Even the order of the films seems to follow a path through life. The first short shows the birth of a new breed of people, the zombies. The second features a robot growing as well as learning about life and its purpose. The final short offers a glimpse at death and rebirth, completing the cycle that has been set up.

A romantic evening is ruined when zombies start showing up.

Just because the short films seem to have a very deep meaning to them, don’t expect them to be boring. The first one has some good moments of blood, and is actually quite funny. The man left behind to clean up is pretty geeky, but his friend gets him a blind date. After having some BBQ at a restaurant, the man has eaten some tainted beef, which infects him with the virus that will turn him into a zombie. When the new couple begin kissing, the man has passed the virus to the woman, setting off a chain of events that nobody can explain. That leads to some hilarious television interviews and debates about what is happening and how it can be stopped.

The second short is the most serious. A robot seems to have reached enlightenment, and the other Buddhists in the temple think he may actually be Buddha. A repairman thinks it’s just a malfunctioning robot, which starts a debate on some rather heavy ideas. This leads to a confrontation between big business and faith as the company that created the robot comes to terminate it.

Has a robot reached enlightenment, or is it just malfunctioning?

The final short is hilarious, and it has much less to do with deeper meanings than the previous shorts. The idea that a girl has ordered an 8 ball from aliens is funny enough, but watching the various reporters on the news deal with their final moments on Earth pushes things over the edge. There are some incredible looking special effects in the film. The zombies in the first story are just gory enough, the robot in the second short looks amazing and is a rather realistic representation of something that could be created. The final short features a giant 8 ball crushing a huge portion of the planet, leaving a destroyed city behind it. If that’s not impressive enough, I don’t know what is. Doomsday Book is funny, intelligent, and bloody, and it’s one of the few anthologies where each short is thoroughly enjoyable.

Under the marquee – Will

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