August Underground’s Penance (2007)

August Underground's PenanceStarring Fred Vogel, Cristie Whiles, Shelby Vogel, Jerami Cruise, Anthony Mathews

Directed by Fred Vogel

Distributed by Toe Tag Pictures

I’m a sick fuck. I admit it. I like things that would make most people gag and throw up. Anyone who has ever read any of my shit knows that. In this day and age of P.C., watered down, dip-shit horror movies, it’s rare for something to come out that truly makes me uncomfortable. In my life there have only been two movies that have brought that feeling out in me. They had the power to make me question whether there really is something truly wrong with me. Those movies are both by Toe Tag Pictures and if you haven’t seen them, and you dig my shit, you should check them out.

Those movies are August Underground and August Underground Mordem.

My feelings towards them and their impact on me can be seen on the special features of the August Underground DVD where I discuss the films. I won’t recount them here because if you are reading this and are a fan of Exploitation films you probably already own them. This isn’t really about those two movies anyway. This is about the third August Underground movie, the one that completes the trilogy. This is about Penance.

Penance follows two degenerate scum-fucks played to perfection by Fred Vogel and Cristie Whiles. As with the first films there is no linear storyline. What you get is a snapshot into the life of a couple of psychopaths, bonded by their brutality. The depths of depravity they sink to is enough to make even the most die hard exploitation fan wince. You’re going to see murder, disemboweling, rape, animal death and countless other atrocities. You’ll feel dirty, sickened and a little fucked up for watching it, and to me, that’s what’s great about it. I want to feel something when I watch a movie. There is nothing worse than spending an hour and a half watching a movie and then, when it’s over, you shrug your shoulders and move on without so much as a second thought about what you just watched. Love it or hate it this movie will make you feel something and in the end that’s the reason people watch movies like this. It’s not a feel good movie. It’s not a movie that comes wrapped with a pretty yellow bow. It’s a nasty, dirty movie and it wears that proudly on it’s sleeve.

August Underground's PenanceThe guys in Toe Tag made a great choice in keeping this film centered around the two killers this time. I particularly like this aspect because the main fault I found with Mordem was the overabundance of characters, especially the character of Maggot. While he was responsible for many of the more unsettling moments of the film, including the infamous bathtub scene, which to this day still makes me question my faith in the human race, it almost came off cartoonish in its gratuity. Exploring the complexities of the two killer’s relationship is the heart of this film. And that’s what August Underground finally found with this one, heart. It’s a black heart full of cum, blood, shit and entrails, but it’s still a heart. We’ve seen these people do some nasty things in the past and going in you know you’re going to be seeing plenty more. What I personally wanted to find out is a little more about them. Thankfully that’s what we get. You’re going to see a different side to the two fucker-heads. Don’t take that to mean that you’re going to get force fed some back-story that makes you understand why they do what they do. You won’t get answers or excuses; you’ll just get a little insight. From there you can make your own conclusions. Just like real life. And that’s the beauty of AUP. It makes it all seem so possible, so real.

The look of the film has been updated also. Shot digitally, which I’m also assuming the first two were only the footage was degraded to give it a camcorder look, it gives a much clearer look at the gore, which is still some of the best in the business. The effects, handled by Jerami Cruise, really take center stage again. There is such a sense of realism in what you see that you can’t help but feel like you’re watching the real deal. I really bought into the Gweef. For those who don’t know what that is, imagine the sound of a Queef, and if you don’t know what that is, well, Google it and then move out of your mom’s basement cause you’ve been missing out. Take that sound, coming out of someone’s guts and you’ve got a Gweef, a gore queef. Still this isn’t he most unsettling moment in the film.

I never thought I would see a scene that topped the bathtub scene from AUM. But now I have. I’m not going to ruin the scene for those out there who haven’t seen it yet, but let’s just say Christmas is not always a joyous occasion for everyone. Not when Toe Tag is involved.

At the beginning of this review I mentioned the fact that only 2 films have ever really made me feel uncomfortable, well you can go ahead and add this one to the list. I felt uncomfortable, disturbed and a little sick for watching it. I also can’t help but feel like I had just watched art. Sick, fucked up art, but art nonetheless. If you are a fan of these types of movies then you should add this film to your collection. I would be hard pressed to find one that is better. If you’re not, and are contemplating giving it a chance anyway, keep one thing in mind though. It isn’t that PG-13 shit that you can forget about even before it’s over. It’ll stay with you for a while. It’ll make you feel sick and wrong, but that’s ok. Art should make you feel something. That’s its purpose.

4 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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