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Doomsday
Tonight's Feature Presentation

DOOMSDAY (2008)

Starring: Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Alexander Siddig, David O'Hara, Lee-Ann Liebenberg

Written and Directed By: Neil Marshall

The Short Version

You watch Doomsday because you love post-apocalypse movies, and that’s it.

A lot of tributes are paid here; enjoy picking them out!

The show is stolen by someone with very little screen time.

It’s bloody, over the top, ass kicking fun!

Sit back and enjoy the chaos.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

COTTAGE CHEESE.

It’s not everyone’s taste, but if you like it, you love it.  Spike it with paprika, though, because mild is not on the menu today.


Pairs Well With...

JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL.

In honor of the setting: Scotland.  It is also blended, much like the storyline here. And, as far as Scotch goes, it’s relatively cheap without being bottom shelf.  Trifecta!

“It's human nature to seek even the smallest comfort in reason or logic for events as catastrophic as these. But a virus doesn't choose a time or place. It doesn't hate or even care. It just happens.”


You watch a movie like Doomsday because you love post-apocalypse/oh-shit-there-goes-the-planet types of movies.  This may sound obvious, but it’s a truth that many people seem to miss.  If you’re going for the thespian majesty, the flawless dialogue, and the storyline that makes perfect sense, then you need to get some glasses, because you obviously couldn’t see the box properly when you picked up Doomsday.  This movie is what it is and it makes no apologies.  In the world of Doomsday, the only way to apologize is to offer up your own head on a platter (literally), and there’s just no way that this flick is going to go down quietly.

Doomsday is loud, bloody chaos, where cleverness and brute barbarism collide, and it’s a draw as to which one comes out on top.  And there’s cannibalism, too; can’t forget that cannibalism!  It’s much like you’d expect the real post-apocalypse to be, actually.

Much has been made of the very obvious fact that Doomsday is, at its core, a tribute movie.  Writer/Director Neil Marshall is very much aware of those who have come before him, and his script makes no bones about its ancestry.  The essence of the plot – and a certain physical attribute of our heroine – plainly owes much to John Carpenter’s Escape From New York.  If you don’t catch pieces of the wonderful world of Mad Max here, you’re just not paying attention.  There are direct scene lifts from Aliens and The Warriors.  However, it is also plain that these elements are just that: tributes.  They are a game for genre fans to play “I Spy” with (make it a drinking game, if you want), and a sombrero tip from a filmmaker who is clearly a fan himself.  But far from being the patchwork Frankenstein devoid of its own merits that some have claimed it to be (maybe they’d just finished watching Die Another Day and got confused), Doomsday stands as its own entity.  Stands, and holds up a freshly decapitated head in defiance. 

And by the time it’s finished, Doomsday will have at least one iconic image all its own.

We start off in Scotland, where the population is in a panic.  It seems that much of the country has fallen victim to a particularly nasty, incurable bug called the Reaper virus, the effects of which are very bloody and very fatal.  Fortunately for the world at large, the bug seems to be contained to Scotland alone for the moment, and the rest of the United Kingdom would very much like to keep it that way.  To that end, they’ve erected a wall at the English/Scottish border that makes Hadrian look like a cheap amateur.  As the last gate is about to be closed, soldiers try to keep order, and frightened citizens try to get the hell out.  In the chaos, a woman is fatally wounded, but she begs a soldier to take her young daughter (herself carrying a nasty eye wound, ahem) to safety on the last chopper out.  The soldier obliges, and the young girl is given her chance at life…

…as our future heroine.  Meet Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra from Underworld: Rise of the Lycans), all grown up as the badass who gets the call when the cops need to call 911.  She doesn’t wear a patch, but she does have a ball with her pop-out artificial eye.  The Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Michael Canaris (played with creepy dirtbag efficiency by David O’Hara), has a special job for her.  Turns out that the Reaper virus has just turned up in London, and if a way isn’t found to stop it in the next 48 hours, the city’s going to be a write off.  Coincidentally, satellites have just picked up signs of human life in Scotland, which everyone had figured to be completely depopulated thanks to the Reaper virus long ago.  Logic says there must be a cure there.  Canaris wants Sinclair to fly into Scotland to get that cure and come back before the clock runs out.  If she can’t do that, of course, she needn’t come back at all.

So.  Who thinks these newly rediscovered living residents of Scotland are living the hoity-toity provincial life of silk sheets, manor houses, cricket matches, and tea and crumpets every afternoon?  Yeah, thought so.

With that said, the way they are living represents at least three different types of dystopian worlds.  First, there’s the classic Ruined City.  This is basically the emptied out buildings, broken windows, overturned cars, empty train stations, etc.  Think Chernobyl fifteen years after the accident, and you’ve got the image.  This is the stage for our initial discovery and chase sequences.

The second setting is the Post-Industrial Steel Scrap Monstrosity, Avec Underground Dungeons.  This is Mad Max territory meeting the worst of the Jerry Springer show, and this is where Doomsday gets its iconic image.

If you are like most people who either picked up this movie at the store or decided to see it in a theatre, your first image was one from the poster of a screaming warrior woman in ancient Celtic style blue war paint whose tongue gives Gene Simmons a run for his money.  This is the image that convinced you to either see the movie or find out more about it.  (And that’s before you find out how she looks from the neck down.)  When you’ve finished watching the movie, this is also the most memorable image that you will take away.  It is, in fact, the iconic image of Doomsday.

This is the image of a character whose name you may or may not ever catch is Viper.  This is the image of an actress named Lee-Ann Liebenberg.  She more than delivers on the promise of her poster portrait, but several things will surprise you about her.

  • She has very, very little actual screen time.  She owns it when she has it, but you’ve probably taken longer bathroom breaks at some point.
  • Her image dominates the promotional and poster art, but Lee-Ann Liebenberg doesn’t warrant high enough billing to be credited on the poster.
  • Lee-Ann Liebenberg’s primary occupation is actually as a stuntwoman.  Her acting credits are almost entirely on the order of “Hooker #2”, “Girl on Ladder”, and “Woman in the Bikini.”  Sure, we all start somewhere (remember Rhona Mitra’s role in Hollow Man, anyone?), but what’s shocking is that as of three years later, she’s still not picking up anything bigger.
  • Okay, so the fashion mag photo shoots won’t surprise you.  But hey, now you know they’re there!

There’s plenty more to see at the Thuderdo- er, at the Steel Scrap Monstrosity, of course.  There’s cannibalism using a backhoe as a cooking spit.  There’s Sol, the, um, tribe’s leader, whom Craig Conway plays using Sex Pistols chic for his inspiration.  There are also motorcycle stunts, a stage cabaret (really!), and apparently we just missed the judging for the “let’s see who can make the best medieval weapons out of modern scrap metal” contest.  More than any other setting, this is what people tend to think of what drawing up a mental picture of post-apocalypse on film, and Doomsday makes the most of it.

But we’ve still got more stops on out tour!

Next we take the train (literally) to a re-occupied Medieval castle, complete with fully recreated Medieval society, right down to the chicken-farming peasants and knights in armor!  (Oh!  Can you say claymores and battle axes coming up next, kids?  I knew you could!)  And look; who’s that sitting on the throne?  Why, it’s Malcolm McDowell!  He’s just the guy that our heroine’s been looking for, too, because he’s the scientist who was supposedly working on a cure when Scotland got quarantined!  I won’t tell you how that turns out, but I will say that you do want to stay for the gladiatorial combat event immediately afterward.

I told you that Doomsday has it all!

After the castle, we get a bonus set piece of a “pack a Bentley in here in case of disaster” warehouse which may bring to mind a certain other famous warehouse set only because one of the characters brings it up.  Close things out with a Mad Max meets James Bond car chase (hey, Max never had himself a factory-fresh Bentley), and you’ve got more post-apocalyptic fun than you can shake a nail-studded stick at.

If you don’t enjoy these movies to begin with, the chaos of Doomsday is just going to give you a headache.  The ride will have made no sense – indeed, you’ll obsess over the fact that a major part of the ride was technically pointless – and the fashion show will have you clamoring for an eye wash station.  But as previously noted, this movie wasn’t made for you.  Doomsday was made for people who love the post-apocalypse genre, by people who love the post-apocalypse genre. 

Bottom line, if the aftermath of civilization’s end is your scene, then Doomsday is the ultimate popcorn.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, September, 2011

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