Fantasia Fest 2020 Film Review: ‘Undergods’

Capitalism kills in the new Chino Moya apocalyptic film Undergods. In Moya’s universe, men and women are equally terrible because capitalism itself breeds greed, dishonesty, and hierarchy. It’s a war of the haves and the have-nots, and those at the bottom of the food chain will have their retribution. In 2020, class warfare rules the day and strict examinations of our society are needed, but from this film you’ll gain no insight. It can’t be called an anthology because that would require cohesion. This is all about spectatorship. The viewer must watch things happen to people with no real plot line to direct them to a conclusion. 

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K (Johann Myers) and Z  (Géza Röhrig) are working men who collect dead bodies, and sell men into slavery. They are also our narrators…or maybe not? It’s unclear.  K tells a story about a man who haunts his apartment and how being a workaholic ruined his life. From there, the narrative follows several people on different ends of the capitalist spectrum and how they usurp one another in various ways until someone is dead. 

I mentioned the film is bleak in the beginning but that word doesn’t begin to describe Undergods. I can’t even give an accurate description of the story because it’s so all over the place. Moya’s interpretation of a world destroyed by the symptoms of capitalism is unpleasant to encounter. Aesthetically, the production design looks like it exists in the same universe as Atlas Shrugged, which makes sense because the narrative of this story is objectivist in nature. Watching characters appear and disappear is jarring because the viewer can’t relate to or take interest in anyone or anything. While this might be cool for a 20 minute short, it’s certainly not for a 90 minute film. 

But I guess that’s part of the allure? Undergods isn’t interested in shaping most of its characters to be anything more than pawns in a capitalist hamster wheel. They don’t change, they don’t learn. They are, effectively, robots. K and Z are the only ones with any depth. They discuss their dreams, their work, and their survival, but they mostly observe. They serve one purpose and that’s to hammer the point home that capitalism is destroying people’s lives. Do people really need a feature length film to tell us that?!

Despite the color palate being various shades of blue and gray, it’s shockingly pretty to look at. Moya paints an extremely depressing futuristic world that would normally seem far-fetched, but now, with a global pandemic and corrupt leadership, doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. Undergods has no beginning and no end because the cycle of the rich and the poor only ends at death, which may sound like an interesting concept on paper, but does not make for a good movie.