By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Playing at Fantasia Digital Film Festival 2020 on Sept 2, 5:00 PST. Buy your virtual ticket here.
Chino Moya’s Undergods has everything I want in a horror anthology. The plan was to build a utopian future, but somehow, along the way, paradise is lost. What we see is a the post apocalyptic world of Eastern Europe. The stories K (Johann Myers) and Z (Géza Röhrig) tell each other–as they search for bodies (lost souls)–is their odd way of consoling each other.
The three tales within a tale are essentially fables. Each explores misery in a different context. All of them are successful in its message, telling us where humanity is headed if we don’t adapt or invite change.
The first tale sees Harry (Ned Dennehy) locked out of his apartment, and his motives to bunk with the next-door neighbour is not pure. The second sees Horatia wanting a bedtime story from pops (Maddison Whelan), a businessman who doesn’t always have time for his daughter. And the third? The best bits are when the film cuts back to the future and K and Z discuss amongst themselves what it all means.
Just how they sum it up is a statement on society. The last tale is about an ex coming back into Rachel’s (Kate Dickie)’s life and her teenage son (Jonathan Case) nearly freaks. Try explaining to him that this stranger is his biological father…
The tales are vaguely interconnected. It’s odd to see this work classified as science fiction, and that’s only because of the framing narration. Thematically, they are a gothic study of the human condition.
I wish more time was spent with K and Z as they explain these tales to each other. A further revelation can highlight how bad (or good) life has become. As dire as the situation is, I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Eagles’ song Hotel California as the film closes off. In the 2002 interview with 60 Minutes, what Don Henley nailed about what I believe is why Moya titled his movie as he did. “It’s basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about,” In this film’s case, it’s about Europe.
Whether this manifests as hedonism, consumerism and self-indulgence–as the band collectively revealed–what I interpreted from this movie is in how these antiheroes can choose to remember or forget (the third tale really reinforces this idea), but whether they want to respond to those voices calling from far away, they’re all victims to desire.
4 Stars out of 5