Fantasia Film Festival 2020: Daniel Wood Reviews Undergods

Undergods is an ambitious and sprawling post-apocalyptic sci-fi anthology film from Fantasia Film Festival 2020 that brings a dystopic message about the malevolence of strangers, the underlying and inherent badness of humanity and a stark warning for our future.

The wraparound part of the film is set in a timeless, unnamed and unplaceable European city in a future post-apocalyptic and dystopic world with empty, burnt out hollow shells of buildings, dreary grey and shades-of- blue atmosphere and bodies littering the streets that need collecting and sorting out.  Undergods is undoubtedly a visually impressive film that has found a perfect setting and has crafted the world with such a highly-polished and convincing sheen.

We’re introduced to the film’s narrators played by Geza Rohrig and Johann Myers, two men in a garbage truck who drive around this wasteland collecting bodies and lamenting on the lives they lead by telling each-other stories, three tales of men who let strangers into their lives with disastrous consequences, which make up the anthology part of the film.

What follows is a deeply grim, irreverently dark and blackly comic take on bedtime’s stories from director Chino Moya who deftly plays with reality and realism with his anthology pieces, are these stories just stories, or are they real? He does this by masterfully weaving each anthology piece into the next, as well as meshing them into the connective tissue of the current wraparound world. To put it simply each story moves seamlessly into the next, across flashbacks and current time to create a fully realised gut-punching overall narrative.

The stories themselves are arguably more damning of humanity and more bleak and horrific than the apocalyptic world and all of them speak to the timely, real-life societal ills and the devolution of society, the mistrust of our neighbours and how these films might inevitably contribute to, what we can now see, as the downfall of civilization.

We see couple Ron (Michael Gould) and Ruth (Hayley Carmichael) deal with the encroaching presence of an alleged neighbour  (Ned Dennehy) lead into the story of Hans (Eric Godon) double-crossing an enigmatic stranger (Jan Bijvoet) and Dom (Adrian Rawlins) and his wife (Katie Dickie) are plagued by the reappearance of Dickie’s ex-husband, who had been missing for some years. All of these stories brilliantly share a sinister tone, an underlying comic element and an understated horror as they inevitably all end in tragedy.

The stories are also all tied together by a yearning for emotional connection that doesn’t quite manifest itself, but there’s also a really effective synth pop musical score that ties them together and increases in intensity and escalates as the character’s moods and emotions grow stronger and angrier, or as the action gets more severe.

What Undergods manages to achieve is the suggestion that the past and the future are inescapably linked as we see characters from the ‘past’ show up in the ‘future’ such as the father and the daughter’s boyfriend from the second story, and characters from the ‘future’ show up in the ‘past’ such as the ex-husband who returns in the third story. This also creates an unclear non-linear timeline that makes it extremely difficult to place when everything is happening.

As a result Undergods’ interconnected yet confusing narrative could be alienating to general filmgoers, but for those who want something delightfully dark and bleak that’s a tribute to storytelling and a primer for what can go wrong if we continue going the way we are, the film is a deeply entertaining one.

For more reviews and interviews, check out our Fantasia Film Festival 2020 coverage here

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