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Web Animation / The Backwater Gospel

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"The Undertaker's comin'..."

For as long as anyone can remember, the coming of the undertaker has meant the coming of death.

The Backwater Gospel is a short film, published on YouTube, about a small town called Backwater that is in a bit of a predicament. Namely, whenever the local Undertaker bicycles into town, someone dies the same day.

One day, however, the Undertaker comes to town... and no-one dies. Not one person. The Undertaker simply sits on a bench and watches the townsfolk. The fear and uncertainty as to who will finally die sweeps across the town, and it's only a matter of time before someone snaps...

It can be watched online.


  • All of the Other Reindeer: The Minister deliberately convinces the rest of the town to ostracize the Tramp, if calling him a "bad apple" and "son of perdition" is evidence enough. Not that the Tramp seems to mind.
  • All There in the Script: A development video includes glimpses of documents that go more into detail about the characters and their motivations:
    • The Minister is an obsessive Control Freak who has actively undermined modernization in order to keep the town of Backwater under his thumb, and his professed belief in God is merely a tool he uses to manipulate the townsfolk. He also levies taxes on the townsfolk to line his pockets.
    • The Tramp ended up in Backwater by accident one day, losing his leg after he crashed his car on a tree stump while driving drunk. He swore off drinking after that, and now lives in his wrecked car.
  • Angry Mob: The town becomes one after the Preacher convinces them that the Undertaker is there as a punishment from God because of the "sinful" tramp.
  • Animal Motifs:
    • The Undertaker is associated with crows. They flock around him as he rides his bike, roost above and around him and the Undertaker has large black wings like theirs that that can be seen occasionally and in his shadow.
    • He is also compared to a vulture in the ending song, and his crooked nose is reminiscent of a vulture's beak. Naturally both of those birds are carrion-eating.
  • Arc Words: "Well it ain't gonna be me!" They're spoken twice, by the same man. Once when the townspeople are barricading themselves inside their homes to hide from the Undertaker. The second, right before he kills the man standing next to him, starting a murder-riot.
  • Badass Preacher: The preacher keeps a gun hidden in that Bible of his. And he's a pretty good shot.
  • Battle in the Rain: The entire town engages in one after they stone the Tramp to death, only to realize as it begins raining that he was not the only death the Undertaker was waiting for. It culminates in them slaughtering each other in a desperate bid to give the Undertaker his victim.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Everyone has these except the Tramp right before he dies and Bubba when he becomes horrified with himself for killing him.
  • Book Ends:
    • The short begins and ends with the Undertaker calmly going about his work, even whistling the Tramp's song at the end.
    • Similarly, the man who shouts "It ain't gonna be me!" when the Undertaker first shows up in town shouts the same thing before murdering another citizen in a desperate bid to give the Undertaker his victim.
  • The Brute: Bubba. He's dumb muscle, but he's very religious. He's also the Minister's greatest supporter. It takes the Preacher some doing to put him down when the whole town goes insane and, even then, the momentum of Bubba's body kills him anyways.
  • Crapsack World: Backwater is a terribly blighted little burg in the middle of nowhere, presumably during The Great Depression.
  • Creepy Crows: They signify the coming of the Undertaker.
  • Creepy Mortician: The Undertaker, to the extent that he's believed to bring death whenever he appears. And he does. But not directly.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: After the Tramp is killed, his corpse is left with arms splayed in a halo of clean ground, untouched by the later massacre.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The lyrics of the Tramp's song runs along these lines regarding the Undertaker.
    His presence foretells both blood and death yet he shoulders not the blame. Like the shadow of the vulture circlin' blackly overhead, the Undertaker is drawn to death like a knife is drawn to red.
  • Death by Irony:
    • Fate is a cruel mistress is she not? There's the obvious irony where the townspeople murder each other so, well, they wouldn't have to die. But there is a particular irony here. Remember that one townsman that said "Well it ain't gonna be me"? Remember how he is the first to start the panic and the massacre? He becomes the one the Undertaker first measures for a coffin.
    • The minister was killed by a crucifix, there's some twisted irony in that. Plus, the irony is also reversed. Bubba had absolute faith in the Minister. When the panic starts, he loses his faith and attacks the Minister. They end up killing each other. Bubba is killed by the man he admires most and the Minister is killed by his greatest supporter.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: In the first scene of the film, when The Undertaker approaches, highlighting that the man trying to fix the power pole will soon die, the scene is entirely in monochrome.
  • Desert Skull: Seen when the Undertaker approaches the town. The town is in the middle of a desert, after all.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The Undertaker embodies this trope. He doesn't even flinch as the people of Backwater all kill each other... though, naturally, this was because he saw it coming.
  • The Dragon: Bubba is the second-in-command of the Preacher, obeying his every word and helping to keep the people of Backwater compliant out of fear.
  • The Dreaded: The Undertaker. The entire town flies into a terrified panic the moment the Tramp announces his approach, fleeing to their homes and barring every window and door before he arrives.
  • Dying Town: Backwater, an impoverished frontier town where the citizens live in squalor under the boot of a Sinister Minister that either refuses to modernize or can't due to the short being implied to take place during The Great Depression. It's gotten so bad that while it's not being haunted by Death, it's got the next best thing in The Undertaker.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": "The Undertaker". Justified, since he is a supernatural entity and for all we know, that could be his real name.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: Except it's not. It just makes the Undertaker creepier.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: The Undertaker can pull this off in broad daylight!
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: The Minister's stance towards the Tramp.
    Minister: The Lord is testing us, people! For seven days we have been tormented because that son of Perdition refuses to fear the Lord! How long must we suffer from his wicked ways?!
  • Foil: The Tramp is this to the Minister. The Tramp is generally easygoing and makes the best of what he's got. The Minister is malicious and strives for power.
  • Foreshadowing: The Minister opening the stoning with "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone", a quote meant to imply that no-one is free of sin and thus no one should be committing to a stoning, hints that his faith is a mere smokescreen he uses to maintain control over the town.
  • Gag Nose: The Undertaker is a decidedly unfunny example, his nose resembling the beak of a carrion bird.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Undertaker, and the whole town during the final massacre.
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: The Undertaker has raven-black feathered wings, which is fitting for a mystical figure with a connection to death.
  • Hate Sink: You will not like the Preacher. This is a fact. The man is an Egocentrically Religious Sinister Minister who orders the death of an innocent man in a paranoid rage and, according to Word of God, is apparently intentionally enforcing the fear of God in the townsfolk for the sake of procuring power for himself. It is immensely satisfying to see him die horribly in the massacre at the end.
  • He Who Must Not Be Heard: The Undertaker never says a single word in the entire film.
  • Heel Realization: Bubba seems to have one after killing the Tramp and realizing the Undertaker was not there for him.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Bubba turns against the Minister during the massacre, correctly coming to the realization that he's the reason it's happening and very notably never trying to kill anyone but him.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: The Tramp's singing is rather cacophonous.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Undertaker seems to be the human embodiment of death. Though he doesn't personally kill anyone himself, he's shown to have dark wings when the image flashes across the screen, or when you look at his shadow. Plus, he's clearly able to predict deaths as, even when the guitarist is killed, he does nothing. It's only when everyone in the town is dead that he gets to work measuring them for coffins. Yikes.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Essentially the outcome of the Tramp's death once the townsfolk realize the Undertaker didn't come for him.
  • Hypocrite: The Preacher is not what one would call a paragon of holiness. Lampshaded:
    Preacher: Submit to the Lord!
    Tramp: Pfft. Why don't you try it?
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The Undertaker whistles a song that first sounds like "Itsy Bitsy Spider", but turns out to be the song that the Tramp was singing.
  • Irony: The guy who screams "Well, it ain't gonna be me!" that the Undertaker comes for? He's the first person measured up for a coffin.
  • Jump Scare: Certain... disturbing images that flash across the screen at times, accompanied by jarring sounds. Most notably, the Undertaker's usually invisible black wings.
  • Karmic Death: The Minister is killed by his own dragon, via getting his head crushed by a crucifix.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The Preacher incites the townspeople to stone the Tramp to death, which ends with the Tramp getting his head crushed. When Bubba turns on him in the final massacre, the Preacher himself suffers this exact fate.
  • Made of Plasticine: The townspeople are either terrifyingly strong or made out of some sort of fragile, sponge-like substance to inflict and suffer the injuries they do in the final scene. Possibly both.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Preacher, full-stop. He figures out a way to turn the Undertaker's arrival to his advantage by siccing the population on the Tramp, figuring that he can kill two birds with one stone - get the Undertaker to leave, having gotten the death he had come for, and at the same time to be rid of his annoying rival. Unfortunately for him, he did not foresee that, if the Undertaker's coming means an incoming death, his early coming may mean a lot of deaths...
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The townspeople get this twice: once at the beginning when they hear the Undertaker is coming, and near the end when after killing the Tramp, the Undertaker continues to to sit and wait.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Well, it ain't gonna be me!"
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After killing the Tramp and seeing he wasn't who the Undertaker wanted, Bubba looks to the heavens and utters "Oh God, no." While it may be an Oh, Crap!, Bubba loses his Black Eyes of Evil and later recognizes the Preacher as the cause of the town's suffering.
  • No Name Given: Nobody except Bubba gets a name, unless "The Undertaker" can be counted as a name.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Once The Undertaker arrives in town, he just quietly sits in the town square, waiting.
  • Paint the Town Red: The art style makes it look black.
  • Paranoia Fuelinvoked: The Undertaker's arrival has everyone go into hiding, wondering who will die and how. His very presence causes the entire town to slaughter itself in a paranoia-fueled frenzy.
  • Plague Doctor: The Undertaker evokes the image of one, due to his beaklike nose and Scary Shiny Glasses, but a closer look reveals that he's not wearing a mask.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: If the Undertaker comes to town, at least someone will die. Sooner or later.
  • Psychopomp: This is probably what The Undertaker is. He is not The Grim Reaper, as he is not the bringer of death himself. Presumably, his role is to allow the souls of the dead to pass on to the next life.
    "His presence foretells both blood and death / Yet he shoulders not the blame"
  • Real Is Brown: Until it rains...
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After his initial accusation, Bubba spends the massacre bellowing like a monster while trying to kill the Minister.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The Tramp's body lays spread-eagled in a manner similar to the Crucifixion. Also notable is the fact that not a drop of blood from the massacre touched him, creating a ring of clean ground around his body.
  • The Scapegoat: The townspeople blame the Tramp for causing the Undertaker to come to town.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: The Undertaker wears them and they never stop shining!
  • The Shadow Knows: The Undertaker's shadow has huge dark wings that spread out around him.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The townsfolk are terrified of death when the Undertaker arrives. Their fear of death and desperation to survive causes them all to murder each other. In other words, the deaths the Undertaker prophesied are caused by his appearance.
  • Signature Headgear: The Undertaker wears a black top hat.
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: No points for guessing which end of the spectrum this is on. Even the camera is dirty.
  • Sinister Minister: The Preacher, who graduates from complaining about the Tramp to commanding the townsfolk to stone him to death.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The man who yells "Well it ain't gonna be me!" Twice does two respective actions that leads to a crescendo, with him running out in a panic causing the rest of the townsfolk to flee back to their homes, and when he slices a woman's head in half causing the massive fight that leaves the entire population dead.
  • Southern Gothic Satan: The undertaker (with his black shadow wings) comes to town which makes the pious townfolk believe that someone will die. So they all kill each other in an attempt to not be the one the undertaker comes for, and so they all die.
  • Twisting the Words: A brilliant corruption of the famous Jesus quote "let he who is without sin, cast the first stone". In context, it is an appeal to peace, with the implication being that no one is without sin. The Preacher instead uses it as an attack order: "if you are sinless, kill the Tramp".
  • Villainous Valor: Say what you will about The Preacher, and it's probably well deserved, but when the townspeople start tearing each other apart, his response is to grab the gun from his Bible, crawl through the fray, and try to shoot the Undertaker. It doesn't work, though.
  • Weird West: Clearly takes place somewhere in the parched American Southwest in the early 20th century, with the Undertaker providing the Weird.
  • When It Rains, It Pours: Somewhat justified, since it is the desert, after all.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: No one considers attacking The Undertaker himself except for the priest, and that only occurs to him after everyone is already brutally murdering each other. He doesn't get the chance before Bubba moves in to kill him though, so no telling if it would have worked.
  • Wingding Eyes: Visible during the Battle in the Rain. They don't make anything more comical, though.
  • Winged Humanoid: The Undertaker, though his wings are typically invisible.
  • Your Head A-Splode: The Tramp gets his head crushed by Bubba, involving a giant rock. The Minister's head also breaks apart when a giant wooden crucifix falls atop of it.