Cool Stuff: The Backwater Gospel
A local guitar-playing vagrant announces the coming of the Undertaker to the God-fearing congregation of the church in a backwater 1930’s Dust Bowl town. While the Undertaker waits patiently at the town square, the Minister riles the townspeople up and convinces them the tramp is the source of their distress and that his death will make things right again. When the vagrant’s violent end does not prompt the departure of the Undertaker, the townsfolk turn on each other.
This short is extremely violent and may not be for everyone. I loved it, though I am thankful that all of the gore is shown in silhouette. I laughed a couple of times in spite of myself because the violence was so over-the-top it veered into the comical. The short is heavily stylized and deliciously dark. All of the characters are perfectly ugly on the surface and within. While watching you never focus on the fact that you’re watching 3D models. The shots are very well-framed. They used blues, greens and browns to convey how ugly and deplorable the characters and town were and filters to soften the edges and dirty up the visuals.
The voice acting is way over-the-top, but suits the material. With the exception of the opening song, which establishes the purpose of the Undertaker and why the townspeople would fear his presence so, the music is low-key and exists mainly to unsettle the viewer. The creepiest ongoing musical element is the the chorus of moans. There was great attention to detail in the sounds, from creaks, to sharpening knives, squashing heads, crows, rain drops and the grit of the clomping foot steps.
The short was done by eight students as a 2011 Bachelor film at The Animation Workshop. The production blog they put together may be found here. If you’d like to learn even more about the short, one of the team members created a montage of his contributions.