‘Undergods’ is a Watercolour Wasteland of Wasted Potential

A still from 'Undergods'. A man is shown walking down some steps into an underpass, the image is shrouded in blue tones. Shot from below you can see a large set of apartments in the background, the air conditioning monitors having an ominous presence.
Strike Media

Written and directed by Chino Moya, Undergods is a dream-like journey through a desolate and dismal Europe. Unfolding as a series of stories, each of them loosely intertwined and layered, Undergods is a post-apocalyptic character-driven mess of visual pleasure. The sheer beauty of the shifting colour schemes matched perfectly with the 80s inspired synth soundtrack makes it an absolute delight to watch.

Cinematographer David Raedeker uses colour to carefully embrace the moods of every scene. The use of blues and yellows set a distinct dystopian shadow across each of the character’s endeavours. The entire film is made up of bleak settings featuring even bleaker characters. Dripping with pathetic and spineless motion, Undergods unfolds in three stories, each overarching or looping back round to connect to the other.

The first story takes place within an apartment complex currently under construction, following the actions of Ron (Michael Gould) and Ruth (Hayley Carmichael), a married couple whose lives become unravelled by a knock at the door one evening.  The arrival of a seemingly nice stranger spins Ron and Ruth’s relationship into turmoil.

A still from 'Undergods'. Three man are shot from a distance, dressed in all black they are looking at a fourth naked man, standing shivering. They are in an abandoned, disused space with large columns throughout the room that frame the shot.
Strike Media

The second story transitions to a father (Khalid Abdalla) and his daughter engaged in a bedtime story. The tale of a greedy merchant unfolds, described as a divorced and unlucky man. An opportunity comes his way when he is visited by a stranger, who offers him a profitable deal. Naturally, the greedy merchant betrays the stranger and is sadistically punished by his own doomed fate in an unpredictable manner.

The final story follows a man, introduced as ‘398’, working in a grimy dystopian factory. Winner of the anniversary lottery — a random prize draw for one lucky worker’s freedom — 398 is transported from a futuristic, post-societal wasteland, to a modern day, functioning society. Dumped alone inside his former family’s house, 398 barely moves, never utters a word and unsurprisingly, causes huge rifts in his former wife’s new marriage. A brilliant and deeply emotional performance in the final act delivered by Kate Dickie (as Rachel, 398’s former wife) provides this tale with real depth, easily making it the strongest in the entire film.

Although the writing wavers consistently throughout, Moya makes use of every second of the 90 minute run time, crafting each shot with filmic purpose. The result is a gripping, gloomy sequence of vivid tales, sinister and humorous in execution but lacking in any clear message or overarching purpose. Undergods is bursting with mass amounts of potential, only falling short on its weak and convoluted writing. The complete experience Undergods provides is confusing but entirely captivating, nonetheless.

Undergods is out in UK cinemas and on Digital Download now

by Kelsie Dickinson

Kelsie (she/her) is a super gay masters student at The University of Glasgow. She loves slashers, but hates capitalism. Her favourite films are It Follows, Midsommar, Lost In Translation and Ghost World. Find her on Twitter.

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