October 8, 2015

End of Animal: The End of the End of World Movies as We Know Them

Doomsday scenarios tend to be big-budget affairs in the movies which makes writer-director-editor Jo Sung-hee's bare-bones End of Animal something truly unique, a catastrophe flick unconcerned with grandiose visuals, a low-budget Last Judgment pic that looks so familiar that you really do feel that the Final Days are just around the corner. This is an Armageddon without fire and brimstone. Instead of the four horseman, you've got a child-molesting taxi driver (Kim Yeong-ho). Consider this the reckoning that happens when the lights go out, there's no more electricity and you're left fending for yourself amid a greatly decimated population peopled by antagonistic survivors with no fashion sense.

Apropos of a 21st Century End of Days, you've got plenty of latter day Christian imagery throughout: a long-suffering Mary (Lee Min-ji), single, pregnant and looking for a place to rest; a mean-spirited angel/archangel (Park Hae-il) who communicates via walkie talkie; and a few small, strange miracles like a candy bar that appears from out of nowhere and a cute yet ominous, fluffy white dog that shows up just in time to be barbecued.

Everyone seems somewhat shell-shocked in End of Animal because instead of grappling with the larger reality (life as we know it is damn well over), they're fighting over the smallest of necessities: a middle-aged bicyclist (Yoo Seung-mok) just wants to get laid or sucked or jerked off; a stranded woman (Lee Min-ah) covets then steals a comfortable pair of walking shoes.

Having suffered endless indignities — many of them from a bullying traveling partner (Park Sae-jong)— the young woman is invited by her guardian angel to say what she wants to which she belatedly replies "a nice apartment, a new car, etc." She's clearly learned nothing from surviving one disaster after another, which leads you to wonder if we're living in a Heaven we don't recognize or suffering in a kind of Purgatory from which we'll never escape. Never. At least, not like we'd imagined or hoped. Or prayed.

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