Set in the Dust Bowl during the 1930s, a small, isolated community is plagued by the lingering threat of a mysterious undertaker, who always seems to show up just before someone is about to die. The townsfolk are absolutely frightened, which is only heightened by a guitar-strumming tramp (Zebulon Whatley) who sings a song warning the townsfolk that the undertaker is on his way. Led by a propaganda-spewing preacher (Lucien Dodge), the townsfolk, who have the intelligence of an ingrown toenail, come to believe that the tramp is to blame for their impending doom.
Directed by Bo Mathorne, The Backwater Gospel is a Danish animated short with a simplistic but relevant message. The entire basis for the short is how easy it is to sway the masses, especially when they are afraid for their lives. The fear of death causes the townsfolk to act completely irrational, which leads them to take some very unchristian-like actions. And all along the way, the preacher does nothing but feed into the fears of the townsfolk, because in the end it is he who is the most afraid.
While the narrative of the short is fairly basic, the strength of The Backwater Gospels is the way in which it’s presented to the viewer. With a style that is best described as gritty, the film is gorgeously animated and exudes a legitimate sense of dread and despair, something of which greatly heightens the dark subject matter. The animation stands out most during the short’s final moments, in which the proverbial shit hits the fan. This is where The Backwater Gospel becomes quite violent, but the way the violence is visually portrayed is through black silhouettes, something of which adds a fantastic level of style to the piece.
Take a moment to check out The Backwater Gospel for yourself, and afterwards, please feel free to let me know what you think!