August Underground (2001)

Starring Fred Vogel, AnnMarie Reveruzzi, John A. Wisniewski, Alexa Iris

Directed by Fred Vogel

Editor’s Note: This review originally appeard on our old site. Enjoy!

One of the Very odd…I don’t know if “benefit” is the right word…side effect of running a horror site is that a lot of indie filmmakers who want people to know about their movies are willing to send you free copies for review. One such film is August Underground, which proves to me that exploitation horror never went away, it just went underground.

The film is about two serial killers who enjoy videotaping their crimes. To me, this doesn’t sound like the best idea considering the nature of murder and it’s punishments, but I guess if you’re a serial killer you don’t exactly follow society’s rules. The entire movie is seen from the point of view of the cameraman, who is never identified and never seen, but seems to take great joy in his work.

Director Fred Vogel plays the killer, a demented psycho that unfortunately you would never look twice at if you saw him in public. He has the appearance of a normal mid-twenties kid, but he just happens to enjoy killing helpless victims more than, say, basketball. The film opens with the cameraman following him into the basement of a house perceivably owned by the two of them, only to find a girl tied up and covered in blood, missing her left nipple. The two of them proceed to torture her by smacking her around and forcing here to ingest her own feces. Eventually she dies of not-so-natural causes, and the two of them go out to find another victim…or six.

Virtually plot less, August Underground is a film for those of you that really enjoy seeing how a demented mind works. The things these two get away with boggles the mind, including raping and killing a girl on a country back road, beating the hell out of some mini-mart patrons, and kidnapping and killing two tattoo artists. Why they do it is never explained, and they don’t get caught at the end like you might expect. The film just simply ends, just as abruptly as it began. I was left feeling the serious need for a shower or two for having watched it all the way through, but I’m sure that’s exactly what the filmmakers were going for.

Something that really struck me was the very believable reactions these victims had to their situations. Nothing comes off as acted or scripted in anyway, and most scenes of explicit violence feature no cutting or creative editing, the action is forced to you non-stop for the entire duration. These two features combined had me wondering at times if, indeed, this was truly a horror movie or if it was real videotape made by two psychos that are trying to pass it off as a film.

The makeup effects were another unsettling effect the movie focused on, especially the severed nipple at the beginning. Reportedly, director Fred Vogel is a former instructor at Tom Savini’s School of Makeup Special Effects, which might explain the shocking realism of some of the physical damage seen throughout. Sometimes, however, it just seemed a little too real for comfort, and that was the worst feeling of all; not knowing if what you’re seeing is real or an effect, something I wish more horror filmmakers would strive for.

So was it good? If you like your horror extreme and hyper-realistic, then you will love this movie. It comes very close to being an out-and-out snuff film, though the scenes of rape are viewed from a distance and the violence is somewhat less graphic than you’d expect from something as real as a snuff film. To the un-trained eye, however, you’re not going to get too much closer to the real thing than this movie.

For me, I walked away from the film wondering exactly what the point of it was. It’s certainly not a movie made to glorify serial killers, because you’re not going to find two more despicable creatures than the two in this movie. Was it exploitation for the sake of exploitation? Perhaps, but usually when this is done you have get a sense of purpose from the murderers at hand; these two are directionless and disgusting, the absolute bottom of the food chain, and what they do can in no way be considering purposeful. Perhaps it was made for the sake of showing serial killers as they really are: human waste.

After years of being whispered about in closed circles, the film is finally set for release on DVD this fall through the official site for Toe Tag Pictures, so you’ll finally get the chance to make your own judgment about whether or not the film is worth it in the privacy of your own home.

2 ½ out of 5

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