The Backwater Gospel (2011)

Now, it’s completionally understandable that someone would look at a lack of a When They Cry: Kai episode summary over the weekend and the review of a short film on Monday–that went up late, damn it, because I didn’t notice the upload time was set to 11PM and had to change that–would suggest that I’ve fallen behind on the blog. But that’s absolutely… well, it’s not incorrect, let’s just say that. But The Backwater Gospel has always been something I wanted to cover, because while it’s less than 10 minutes long, the look, feel, and story are top notch.

The story is about the Undertaker. No, not the WWE wrestler who will apparently neither die nor retire, but a scrawny man in a top hat who is effectively a/the Grim Reaper. His appearance foretells death, so when he appears in the small town of Backwater, everyone freaks out, fearing their imminent demise. But after hiding for a week with no deaths and the Undertaker never moving from his spot, tensions get incredibly high. The local preacher–a fire and brimstone bastard–blames all this on an old non-believer called the Tramp, and sics the townspeople on him in a brutal display of mob mentality. But even with his death, the Undertaker doesn’t stir. This causes the people to go absolutely crazy, killing each other in an attempt to not die themselves. In the end it’s clear that the Undertaker came for the entire town, all of whom are now dead.

The animation really stands out. The characters are drawn with very sharp features, often looking like their skin is made of wood (especially their noses). Their eyes are completely black, but turn bright white when night falls and they attack each other. It all adds to the mood of the short, which is very tense. The villagers are willing to do anything to save themselves, even if it exposes their own hypocrisy. When cornering the Tramp, the preacher quotes the Bible by saying, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Every villager immediately starts pelting the Tramp with rocks, because they’re so blinded to their own sin, following a mean-spirited leader in demonizing someone they view as “the other.” Technically they view him as a bad apple threatening to spoil the bunch, but still.

The whole thing can be found on YouTube, and I highly recommend checking it out. And hopefully I’ll have an actual full film ready for next time!


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