The stylistic and visually vibrant writer and director, Chino Moya, brings us his spectacular dystopian feature debut, Undergods, which had its World Premiere at Fantasia Festival. It certainly hooked me in from the offset, with its Blade Runner 2049 aesthetic and synth soundtrack, which I certainly have a penchant for, and from the opening shots we know we’re going to be in for an apocalyptic, dystopian and mysterious ride…
As we are introduced to a bunch of rather eclectic characters, it is at first a mystery to ascertain whether the characters in these ensemble stories are linked, but this adds to the sense of wonder and unease. The group immerses us into a rather bleak collection of different stories in one or more desolate worlds. All the characters seem doomed to an ill fate as we join them on their various dystopian journeys, and there’s a veritable feast of characters here portrayed well by all, but Burn Gorman and Kate Dickie are particularly impressive in their interesting roles.
Undergods’ narrative is a little complicated to meander through at times, and it is difficult to ascertain whether we are travelling through different periods of time. Although the stories are told with great velour, acted incredibly well and leave you with a strong sense of dread, it’s a little difficult to see how they ‘tie up’, but perhaps that is the point. It’s still an intelligent film and I very much admire it for this.
We’ve seen this world many times before in film; the dark, seedy, dirty world of a dystopian future which in 2020 seems more realistic of an actual future on Earth. It has a similar feel and undertone to films such as I am Eli, The Road, Equilibrium and Children of Men. Watching the latter back in 2006 felt different; there was no sense of realism to it, it was simply a brilliant fictional film but a dystopian nightmare. However, on a recent re-watch, it terrified me by how realistic these worlds can now feel. There is a constant state of unease throughout Undergods, perhaps because these films are becoming more realistic in their depictions, or are we becoming them?
I adored the soundtrack by Wojciech Golczewski. The mysterious synth tones added to the overarching mystery of the film. The soundtrack reminded me of Blade Runner and there are certainly many similarities from that film that I saw here. However, I usually like to root for a protagonist, but wasn’t sure who I was rooting for in Undergods. The narrative can get a little confusing, and there are a lot of different strands for a film that’s only 92 minutes long. There is such an overload of imagery and depth, and it certainly feels longer than it is.
Undergods is undoubtedly a spectacle and one to watch when you’re in the mood for an hour and a half of dystopia. The best thing I found about watching this is that as soon as it ended I immediately wanted to return to see what I missed the first time round. If you’re a fan of this style, particularly with a meandering timeline, then this is for you. It’s a perfect blend of science fiction, mystery and fantasy with incredibly striking imagery and a top-notch soundtrack to boot.