SFF 2011 Review: END OF ANIMAL

End of Animal.jpgEND OF ANIMAL is Jo Sung-hee's feature film directorial debut and was funded through a graduate grant from the Korean Academy of Film Arts. The film is set in a darkly atmospheric world.

A young pregnant woman is riding a taxi on her way to see her mother, when a man wearing a baseball cap asks to ride along. After he gets into the taxi, it becomes apparent that he is unpleasant and menacing. Strangely, he seems to know a lot of things about both the taxi driver and the young woman. Soon he starts counting down for the moment that he claims disaster will strike. Then suddenly, everything stops with a bang.

END OF ANIMAL has a strong opening that introduces the film's captivating post-apocalyptic premise. The atmosphere of what follows is eerie and nightmarish, with slow pacing and an apparent lack of narrative direction adding to the great sense of uneasiness. Based on these factors alone, the film will certainly not be to everyone's taste.

The ending, however, is most likely what's really going to divide audiences. It is ambiguous, and leaves many unanswered questions. It may be Jo's intention to deliberately focus on the individuals' responses to the disaster, rather than details such as what has happened, motives of the different characters, or the real identity of the mysterious stranger. The lack of coherent explanations will no doubt leave some viewers frustrated and feeling as lost as the characters themselves; while others will appreciate the film for the unique journey that it has taken them on. 

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