Denmark 2011 
The Backwater Gospel
AFR • 8.80

This is the story of a small community in the U.S. prairies.

As long as anyone can remember, the coming of The Undertaker has meant the coming of death. Until one day the grim promise fails and tension builds as the God fearing townsfolk of Backwater wait for someone to die.

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 Review Review


Death always knows where and when to pay a visit. And it wasn't a coincidence that that time the messenger of the Death, the undertaker surrounded by ravens, chose this god-forgotten town lost in the prairies. This dreary place in fact has no God, no life itself. Its habitants resemble zombies, led by the preacher’s authority, who runs the whole town. The only person who is not under the control of that fake-religious power is the crippled tramp. He is quite ignorant to the town’s dull existence and views it passing by him. It amuses him how people can be so servile to the preacher’s power and the prejudices, spread in the town.

In a place like that it seems nothing ever happens and nothing ever will. The only thing that can actually wake what is left of life in people is the Death itself. From the moment the undertaker comes to the town the whole town is drowned in panic. People are trapped by the superstitious fear, their minds are tormented by the question who is the Death aiming to take this time. It is no surprise that people are easily convinced that the tramp, hated by everyone and especially by the preacher, is meant to die. So a real hunt is set for the poor cripple. Though “hunt’ might be a wrong word to describe what was actually committed by the people. Driven to despair people find no other way than to kill the tramp but they do it in the most brutal way possible with no regret or mercy. By the level of violence that scene can easily fit into any fine horror movie, where death is never anything but an absurd and ruthless act.

But the Death has different plans for that town. Hidden under the mask of the undertaker she is humble enough to wait for her prey. Despite the fact that everything in the movie is set around the idea of death, her role in it is quite passive: people do everything themselves, and Death needs only to collect what is meant to be hers.

There is sense in questioning who is the evil in the movie? It is the people who hold the devil in themselves. Absorbed by the fear they no longer have anything that reminds them of being human. But they don’t even have anything even from animals: the massacre created by them could not been provoked nor by reason nor by an instinct to survive. Rage and uncontrollable violence - that is what led the town into complete chaos. In search for the real victim of the Death people don’t spend a single moment on doubt or remorse, they set the whole town into a true carnage, letting Death enjoy the feast.

The creators presented quite a dark film, in terms of both visual setting and content. Leaving some room for irony and a certain amount of black humour they not only told the story not ignorant to moral substance, but also did it in the best tradition of the horror genre, where excessive amount of blood and violence serve only as the exterior expression. And if to be serious, what can be the best way of reflecting of violence caused by a superstition than violence itself? However, despite the general notion of the film and the gore, that would be wrong to consider the movie as a nasty, repulsive, sadistic confession. The “darkness” of the movie is well balanced with at a certain point ironic symbolism introduced by the authors: there is no chance the preacher could die from anything else than the cross of his own church, and how else could the movie end but by a merry rainbow over the unfortunate town lost in the middle of nowhere.

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