Fantasia Festival Review: Chino Moya’s Dystopian Drama UNDERGODS

3 out of 5 stars

Chino Moya’s Undergods is a darkly comic dystopian drama which has a strong feeling of uneasiness running throughout. Set in an unnamed futuristic world, Moya’s film tells three stories which make The Tales Of The Unexpected seem like Looney Tunes. With nods to directors such as Terry Gilliam and Ben Wheatley, Undergods is a strong debut feature from the Spanish-born short film and music video director.

Tale one sees a stranger (Ned Dennehy) appear at the apartment door of married couple (Hayley Carmichael and Michael Gould). They take him in for the night but his arrival leads to the disintegration of the relationship. The second sees a conniving businessman (Eric Gordon) lose the thing he loves most when he makes a deal with the wrong person. The final story  follows the deterioration of the relationship of another married couple (Adrian Rawlins and Kate Dickie) after her ex-husband mysteriously reappears after years away. Connecting the vignettes are two scavengers (Johann Myers) and Géza Röhrig) as they navigate their way across the dark dystopia. It’s dark stuff, but a molasses black humour seeps through each story. 

Undergods is hugely impressive on a visual level and the David Raedeker’s cinematography is glorious. Shot in Estonia and augmented by special effects, the bleak cityscape is wonderfully realised as a place of nightmares (it’s almost as bleak as the film itself). Wojciech Golczewski’s synth score is the true star of the film and the music underpins the action and creates a brilliant sense of atmosphere. The soundtrack album is sure to be a big hit on its own. 

Deliberately opaque and obtuse, Moya’s film is a morality play about society and the family unit. It’s a film where the characters are as important as the dystopian setting and where the science fiction aspect to the film is more about window dressing than plot. You could spend hours trying to unwrap it. 

A strong feature debut from writer-director Chino Moya, there’s much to recommend in Undergods – the main one being the brilliant score from composer Wojciech Golczewski.