Directed by Chris Esper and written by Kris Salvi, a man discovers his world is not all that it seems and he realizes that he is not what he is. Starring: Dustin Teuber, Jen Drummond, Justin Thibault, Teddy Pryor and Michael Lepore.
One of the great things about the stylistic choices made by Chris Esper and cinematographer Colin Munson in Undertaker is that they throwback to many moments of classic cinema. The opening awakening of Dustin Teuber’s Undertaker, in its monochrome hue feels like an homage to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. On top of the concept of self reflection, again matched with its visual choices harking back to classic cinema, feels reminiscent of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. That choice of removing colour is not one to be taken lightly, with so many choosing to do so in a cheap attempt to add depth which often fails, but here it feels comfortable and natural, helping to create its purgatorial state. There’s a crispness to the aesthetic, not quite a texture but a clarity which is well done.
Another interesting choice is scaling back on the use of sound, its minimal and while there is some ambient noise in the mix, it also holds a certain quietness which helps feed into its mystery. The story builds well, it doesn’t give much away and breeds a curiosity, allowing the viewer’s imagination to fill the gaps about when, where or why he’s in this place. Those choices then throw back to a similar energy as Twin Peaks, but perhaps not quite as quirky. The only potential downfall of the story being that the mystery is still left fairly obscure even in its ending, it adds more to the mix but doesn’t quite resolve things in a fully satisfying manner.
The cast do well to all create that air of outside of, but not overly removed from, reality. Leaning into the tone of speaking that holds a little long or moves a little slower, building the feel that something is not quite right. Teuber creates a sympathetic character in the Undertaker, even without learning much about him, he’s easy to watch and makes it effortless to invest in his strange journey.
Undertaker is new yet nostalgic, it’s mysterious and curious with a strong atmosphere and an eery quietness. It might open up a few more questions than it answers but that doesn’t stop you from enjoying its unusual charm. A lot of its style feels geared to paying homage to classic moments of cult film and television, which for any fan is satisfying to watch.