August Underground

Most horror movies make me feel exhilarated and sometimes if I’m lucky, scared. But rarely am I disturbed as I was with “August Underground”. The film is beyond anything I have ever seen. I felt disgusted with myself for having watched the film. I was not scared, just appalled at myself for having viewed the movie as entertainment. There are those who can stomach the August Underground films and even laugh at them, that in itself I find very disturbing because there is nothing more to the movie than torture. I have had conversations with ‘novice’ horror movie fans about “August Underground” and they are in disbelief about my comments about the movie. True to their naivety, they believe the sickest movie(s) out there have to be the Hollywood gore fest movies by Eli Roth: “Hostel” and “Hostel II”. As much as I enjoy the “Hostel” movies, they have nothing on Fred Vogel’s “August Underground.”

The tagline to the film is: “the sickest film ever made” and it really is. The filmmakers take pride in the fact that it is such a sadistic flick. I have seen some really screwy shit over the years, but the first time I came across “August Underground” I thought it was a snuff film. I was sure it was real. What makes it so realistic is the amateur way it comes off, with the blips of home editing and unsteady handheld camera shots. The absence of credits and a soundtrack adds to it creep factor.

I am an avid horror movie fan and I love to be scared, see blood and gore and an over abundance of gratuity. But this film is something else. If you have seen any of the “August Underground” films you know what I mean. The films blow everything else out of the water. “August Underground” is far more unsettling and realistic than any other film that is pretending to be a snuff film, like the overrated Japanese horror movies, the Guinea Pig films. That being said, I am not a fan of Fred Vogel’s “August Underground” films. While it is absolutely the sickest shit I have ever seen, I think to myself so? Does gratuitous sexual exploitation and torture for an hour and a half make a film; well no. All the movie is is sick and nothing else.

“August Underground” was filmed with a handheld camera and the flick is meant to be the video tape from the personal private collection of a psychopathic serial killer. We watch whatever the camera man, one of the killers, decides to film, which includes cutting off nipples, raping hitchhikers and going about their day to day things, like going to a convenience store and a punk rock show. The acting is chillingly real. The story revolves around two nameless mid-twenty year old men who seem to get off on hurting, humiliating and torturing people. The incessant laughing and the need to constantly humiliate and defile victims is what make the villains so unsettling.

As far as plot goes, that is it, so I won’t bother with the specific details of the movie. So what is the point? There isn’t really any point to film. The fact that there is little plot in the movie is kind of sad and makes it fairly un-entertaining. I myself don’t get a lot of fulfillment from just watching torture, I need more. In my opinion, the gore and sadism of a killer is not what makes a horror movie good. The enjoyment I get from horror movies, is being scared and figuring out how filmmakers have successfully scared me. Well “August Underground” is not scary, you just shake your head and wonder why you are watching the film. While I am willing to give props where they are due, it is a true testament to a filmmaker that in the film nothing feels calculated or scripted and legitimately it does not feel like a movie. I just don’t think it is enough to make an amazing movie experience.

There is a theory circulating that “August Underground” rebukes the romanticized Hollywood horror that is constantly spewed out on film on a regular basis by offering all the a stripped down version of the normally glamorized genre. It presents the topic without any beauty, showing murder, torture and rape for what it really is; an ugly, disgusting thing. It is suggested that “August Underground” is an art piece and not a typical movie that you are meant to watch from beginning to end. The film is meant to make you turn the movie off in the middle and feel disgusted with yourself. This is an interesting theory, and is even supported by Fred Vogel and his family in the August Underground series. I can believe that theory to a certain extent. Okay – but here is my problem with that theory, then why make two other movies? Why make two other films in the series which are almost identical to the first. I think the art theory is bull shit.

While I am sure the concept of de-glamorizing horror is a something filmmakers were thinking of when creating the movies, I do not think it was the main reason for making “August Underground.” Let’s face it; it is a bunch of people who enjoy making horror movies as sick as possible for shock value. Fred Vogel, who wrote, directed, produced and starred as one of the killers in “August Underground” is a special effects make-up artist and is one of the most inarticulate speakers I have ever heard talk about a film they created. Quite frankly, I don’t think he’s deep enough to have thought so profoundly about the film.

The other two films in the August Underground series are, “August Underground’s Mordum” (2003) and “August Underground’s Penance” (2007). In “Mordum,” the biggest addition to the plot is that we see lesbians being tortured by three people instead of two. A warning for the weak stomach, there is chopping and slice of male genitalia. “Penance” looks more at one of the killers, played by Vogel again and his girlfriend going on a killing spree. Really, that is about it. If you have seen one of the films, you’ve seen them all. In fact, if you watch about five minutes of the original “August Underground,” you pretty much get the idea.

My final note: Good Luck.




~ by exploitnation on June 6, 2008.

2 Responses to “August Underground”

  1. I haven´t seen this one because of the same reasons you mention here: I can´t see the point! Thanks for a well-written look at this “film”.

  2. Hey n/p

    I’ve seen all the films, and I have never seen 3 movies more alike ever…!!

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