03rd May2021

‘Undergods’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Johann Myers, Géza Röhrig, Michael Gould, Hayley Carmichael, Ned Dennehy, Khalid Abdall, Eric Godon, Tanya Reynolds, Tadhg Murphy, Jan Bijvoet, Kate Dickie, Sam Louwyck, Adrian Rawlins | Written and Directed by Chino Moya

I’ve mentioned it many times before but I really enjoy a good anthology movie. I’m not sure exactly why but from the classic eighties horror anthologies to the more modern takes on genres, they always grab my attention. Undergods manages to have a style and tone like no other anthology I have seen before.

The ‘wrap-around’ works much better than many other anthology movies, as we see two street scavengers, K & Z, who are loading dead bodies into their truck while chatting about their dreams. These chats lead to the other ‘segments’ of the movie. This wrap-around introduces us to the world that it is all set in. A bleak, industrial ‘future’ that is full of grey, almost arty buildings but is generally a depressing sight. They don’t pass many people and the streets look dirty and deserted. Despite their dismal routine, they smile and happily start the stories.

First up are Ron and Ruth, a married couple who are not at all happy but have just moved into a new place. The only people in a new block of flats. But a visitor who has locked himself out of his home makes their life even more hellish. Like all of the shorts, this is, at times, a difficult watch. Ron and Ruth have a depressing life and both are rundown and fed up. Like much of the film, the actors here are people you will recognise but probably can’t put your finger on exactly what from. All three leads here are great though. Michael Gould and Hayley Carmichael are Ron and Ruth but Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders, Mandy) as their visitor steals the show. He’s an experienced actor and every expression and word from him is perfect.

Next up we meet Hans (Eric Godon – In Bruges, Anna) who soon regrets double crossing a foreigner in a business deal. As his daughter is the charismatic Tanya Reynolds (Sex Education) and the short is at its best when Godon and the much less experienced Tadgh Murphy (Vikings) are on screen together. The back and forths of the two generations works really well, while the story takes an interesting twist or two.

The final segment was my favourite and also produced my favourite performance. This story shows the ‘missing’ man, Sam, who was imprisoned for fifteen years but now returns to his home and discovers his wife has remarried and his son is now a teenager. Unable to even speak, his appearance changes the household completely. At first seeming like a slight rehash of the first story, this soon evolves into something very different. Highly experienced British actor Adrian Rawlins (Harry Potter) is the star here as the new husband Dominic. It’s a sympathetic performance, even if he is (like the other leads) a generally unlikeable white middle-aged male and he puts everything into it. Including a fantastic and full-on karaoke version of Frank Sinatra’s My Way. It’s a fantastic performance, accompanied by several other around him and this story also features the most violent scene which hits hard.

The locations for Undergods are extremely well thought out and look excellent. Each building, inside, but more so outside have a very particular look that is clearly something the director cared a lot about. The setting as a whole just works perfectly as a depressing, almost apocalyptic world. Meanwhile the synthwave, 80s-inspired score probably shouldn’t work at all but it is also brilliant. Working with every emotion that we see on screen.

Unusually for an anthology, every story is from one director, his first full feature, Chino Moya. And it’s a highly impressive debut. Undergods is a bleak, hard and dispiriting look at a world that currently feels way too familiar. Moya has created a modern anthology movie like no other, full of great performances and it’s own unique style.

**** 4/5

Undergods will be in select US cinemas and On Demand from May 7th 2021, courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.

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