End Of Animal (2011)
On a cold winter day, Sun-Yeong (Lee Min-Ji) rides a taxi and heads to her hometown to give birth. Her mother still lives there. A strange man in a baseball cap (Park Hae-Il) then hops into the taxi and starts speaking gibberish. The man is also rude, borrowing money and a lighter from Sun-Yeong. The odd man pretends to know everything about Sun-Yeong and the taxi driver. He then starts a countdown and when he reaches zero the world seems to stop.
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I should warn you straight away: Don't go into this film expecting to be spoon-fed answers because all you'll get for your trouble is frustration, anger, and even more unanswered questions. What this film does manage to do well however, is worm its way into your mind, forcing you to puzzle together all the bits and pieces of this apocalyptic tale that doesn't quite feel all that apocalyptic. . . like me, even if you initially walk away unimpressed, certain questions may continue to haunt you long after the credits roll, forcing you to reevaluate what you just watched.
That being said, if you hate those kind of films, this one clearly isn't for you!
But if you do enjoy films that force you to think outside the box, here are some reasons you might consider giving this one a try: The premise is intriguing, and the first ten minutes had me eager to find out what was going to happen next. Even the atmosphere and setting were sufficiently creepy, and the diverse group of characters Sun-Yeong meets along her journey are all fascinating in their own right (even if they are all detestable). In particular I like how baseball cap man keeps in contact with the radio, a constant reminder that things aren't normal, no matter how run-of-the-mill they may initially appear.
Of course, that's not to say this movie is without its flaws. The pacing is noticeably sluggish, making it feel longer than it needs to be, and the ending never truly lives up to the opening's potential: It's such a fascinating setup, but a lack of payoff makes you feel cheated in the end when nothing clearly gets explained. Not to mention the fact that the heroine is naive and frustrating, so it's hard to cheer for someone who continuously makes the wrong choice even when informed by an apparent psychic what not to do. I think that's one of my biggest complaints actually: the writer/director tried so hard to show the dark underbelly of humanity during the apocalypse, that he failed to make us care about any of the characters. And if we don't care about them, why should we care what happens to them?
And to be frank, most casual viewers might find the plot a bit off-putting and boring. I admit to liking it a lot more after I had time to sit back and process than when I was actually watching it. It's more of a character study than an action-packed End of the World thriller, and that will turn a lot of people off.
And if you haven't watched it yet but are intrigued, feel free to come back and read the spoilers after finishing, because seriously, wrong answers are still better than no answers at all, right? ;)
The biggest questions I had after finishing this movie were the following: Who's the man in the baseball cap and what purpose does he serve? What the heck was going on in the diner? What exactly happened to cause the End of the World, and what were the monsters terrorizing the countryside. What purpose did Sun-Yeong's baby serve, and how does the title tie into everything?
Starting from the beginning, I think the howling/animal sounds were the "angels" the man in the baseball cap warned them about right before the apocalypse occurred: "the angels will descend. White, with huge fangs and claws." Judging from the very brief glimpse we got of the monster growling behind Sun-Yeong, I'm guessing his description is spot on, and that a flying "angel" is what bicycle man mistook for a white pheasant when he was sitting in the taxi with the driver.
(I'm assuming those angels are also what killed the man who went in search of Sun-Yeong's cellphone, and later on, his evil bully of a girlfriend.)
I have two theories as to why all of this is occurring.
One, it's portraying the rapture as foretold in Christian doctrine, where all believers are taken to heaven to be reunited with God, while the sinners are left on Earth as punishment for their lack of faith. I'm not religious myself, but I'm assuming that "angels" were sent to eradicate what remained of humanity, which explains why all the characters Sun-Yeong meets along her journey are so despicable and evil - they were "godless" which is why they were able to turn bad so quickly. This is why it's called End of Animal - all that's left of humanity are the lowest of the low - the wild, uncivilized, and those who treat others unjustly. In this scenario then, the man in the baseball cap would either be Christ, or responsible for fathering Christ, which is why the rapture occurs right before his birth: It's heralding the lord's second coming.
In any case, in both scenarios, it would explain why he knew everything that was about to happen, and why it was necessary to impregnate Sun-Yeong.
That's also why the angels wouldn't harm her: She was doing God's work (albeit unknowingly), and was under his protection. What's going to happen to her now that the baby's been claimed though, I have no idea . . . I can't imagine them using a Christian for a vessel and then exiling her to Earth, which means Sun-Yeong must have been an animal all along (she was a bit promiscuous and adulterous, and didn't think twice before sleeping with a stranger). Perhaps that's why he was so careful to make sure she understood sleeping with him was her choice, and went out of his way not to influence her decision. And then there's the scene when she's listing her needs: It's interesting that they were all superficial and materialistic, and that she didn't mention her own baby once - nor did she seem all that upset when it was taken away. And let's not forget she killed and ate a dog after going hungry for only a day or two . . . if the baby was that important, and all the "psychic" left for her to eat before giving birth was a candy bar, I'm fairly certain such drastic action wasn't necessary, lol.
As for scenario number two (the one I'm personally leaning towards) it's also possible that the man in the baseball cap was actually the Devil. One thing we know for sure is that he is unfailingly honest - ridiculously, bluntly so. So when Bicycle man asks who he is, and he answers jokingly God, only to admit he's kidding, I take him at his word. Besides, the arrival of the anti-Christ is a popular archetype in film, and the perfect catalyst for the End of the World (not to mention red is often associated with the Devil).
And it's not so odd that he would love such depraved people and take pleasure in saying so . . . he's famously depraved himself. And just the way he spoke to people, the way he chastised them for really strange mishaps (not paying the 16 year old for sex, not being assertive and selfish enough, wasting a bullet on his paralyzed mother) seems much more in line with the Devil than with Christ. Not to mention how he shrugged off Christianity while talking with the taxi driver in favor of Buddhist temples . . . since hell is depicted as fire and brimstone, it makes sense that clean air would be a bit of a luxury, as would organic food. If he was supposed to represent Christ or God, taking all the Christians to heaven and then snubbing their own religion in favor of Buddhism wouldn't make much sense. . .
In any case, no matter who he may be, I'm certain his main purpose was always to impregnate someone with his child. In the diner, during the ladder game, it's clear he chose only females in the restaurant as targets (evidenced by where they were sitting), so he was likely choosing the future mother of his child. So regardless of his identity, the child was always meant to set-off the apocalypse . . . Sun-Yeong was just the vassal.
Okay, that's all I've got. I know it doesn't explain everything, but at least it's a start.
If you have any interpretations of your own, feel free to leave them in the comments below!! I'd love to hear them. ^_^