GORE IN THE STORE

REVIEW INDEX

UNDERGODS  **

Directed by Chino Moya.

Starring Johann Myers, Geza Rohrig, Kate Dickie.

 Science-fiction, UK, 92 minutes.

 

Reviewed as part of Glasgow Film Festival ’21. Showing from 26th February to 1st March

 

Z and K, two boiler suited men drive across a bombed-out landscape in their large van, picking up dead bodies from the side of the road to trade in for cans, the insides of which could very well be the same kind of meat. Passing the time in this desolate unnamed European city K tells Z of a dream he has about “a clean room… with a ghost moving around inside it” from here one story leads into another, telling tales which are neither rooted to any one time or place, with figures from one turning up in another. Jealousy is a common factor as is thwarted ambition, all united by the common factor of the brutalist and drab architecture that dwarves and overwhelms these often-pathetic figures.

 

Often anthology films such as these often suffer from mixed results; one stand out entry can cast the other stories in a lesser light, or one weak entry threatens to tip the whole endeavour over to the lesser side of the scale. Sadly, and despite its promising beginning Chino Moya’s debut feature fails to deliver a single satisfying story here resulting in a film that soon overwhelms the viewer with its oppressive drabness. This could possibly be one of the greyest films ever made.

 

What seems at first to be an inventive structure with one story leading into another which then leads into a story within a story and so on soon reveals itself as an exercise in narrative emptiness, providing itself with an excuse to avoid coming up with any satisfying conclusion or resolution for any of its stories aside from the one that concludes the whole exercise.

 

Despite its sickly colour scheme of grey and grey green the film has an impressive look for the most part, providing us with a look at an alternate landscape of brutalist architecture, some rendered in convincing CGI alongside real examples captured on location in Estonia and Serbia. The doom-laden atmosphere is at once imposing and gives off a unique spin on a dystopia that at once feels strange and familiar. It is a shame that the film abandons this look, and its otherwise fantastical setting, for an overlong tale located in a drab setting of suburbia to tell a tale of jealousy and mid-life dissatisfaction.

 

Whilst the least impressive part of the film it contains a performance by Kate Dickie, whose portrayal of a resentful wife results in one of the most menacing scenes on screen this year, accomplished completely by herself with nothing more than the most unnerving smile that lingers long in the memory and proves beyond any doubt that she is one of this country’s greatest actors.

 

At times it feels like a take on dystopian fiction via Peter Strickland, although Moya seems for now to lack that writer and directors’ gift for combining the mundane and uncanny with the deadpan. Instead, we get more of the mundane than anything else here, aside from the impressive brutalist architecture that looms over a good portion of the film. The stories here may have worked as shorts but strung together in this unconvincing manner they only come together to as an exercise in monotony that has very little to say or engage the viewer.

 

Iain MacLeod.

 

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