So, the third in my series of extreme horror movie reviews is the first part of Fred Vogel’s August Underground trilogy. It is entirely possible that you, like most people, have never heard of these films. This is probably for the best.
Allow me to explain. August Underground is – at least content wise – every conceivable sort of wrong.
(**EDIT – I had a bit in here about Charlie Sheen calling the FBI after seeing this film online, but it turns out that was actually the J-Horror ‘Guinea Pig, Flower of Flesh and Blood’ I can admit when I’m wrong. I was wrong. Now please don’t make me watch it.**)
I toyed with writing a 3 word review for this film (do not watch) but after the discomfort I felt during my first aborted attempt at viewing this monstrosity, I decided that any film that has the capacity to elicit extreme reactions from relatively jaded viewers is probably worth trying to sit through, if only to better understand the minds of the director and the viewer in question (me). So I tried again. This time I made it through to the second scene.
On the third attempt, I sat through the whole thing, and now feel qualified to have an opinion about it. But first, a summary.
August Underground follows 2 serial killers as they torture, murder, visit an abattoir, go and see a band, torture some more, go to a shop, torture some more, get tattoos, murder some more, get high, and then top it all off with some more murder. That’s it.
It is a film that, on the face of things, is devoid of merit. The shot construction is apparently non existent, the scripting seemingly awful, the characters certainly do not elicit any kind of sympathy or empathy from the viewer, and the violence is prolonged and abhorrent. For most people this is all they need to know – file this film under ‘depraved filth enjoyed only by the mentally unhinged’ and go back to watching Dexter, with it’s lovely sympathetic murderer.
In fact, as noted above, it took me 3 goes to get past this point of view myself. I didn’t skip bits by the way, I made it through the opening scene 3 times – If you have seen this film you will understand that this is not a pleasant experience, if you haven’t then here is a break down of it:
A guy is outside a house drinking a beer, being filmed. He tells the cameraman to follow him inside as he has something to show him, and that he will love it. They go inside, down some stairs, and into a room with a naked girl tied to a chair, sobbing, and missing a nipple. There is a dead guy in the bath, missing body parts. As the 2 men giggle like 14 year old’s watching porn, they verbally and physically torture the girl. This scene is 6 minutes long, is one unbroken shot, and is fucking horrible. Cut to them driving somewhere.
This is essentially how the film plays out. Torture scene, something unrelated, torture scene, repeat, end. Oh and the entire thing is degraded so that it look’s like a VHS home movie that’s been played too many times, or copied and distributed and re-copied. Like, say, a snuff film.
So how did I make it past this, and why did I bother?
I mentioned Dexter earlier. One of the things that brought me back to August Underground was an interview I had seen with a psychologist discussing celluloid serial killers vs. the reality of serial killers. The gist of this was that we are given serial killers in these neat little televisual packages, that show that the protagonist has morals and ‘only kills people who deserve it’ or some similar get out of jail card for the viewer, but that real life serial killers are so fucked up it would be beyond our capacity to process what is going on. The example he gave was a case where the killer defecated inside the wounds of the people he killed. Or fucked the bodies, or ate the organs raw. Or all three. Now, you have to admit, if Dexter was literally balls deep in the eye socket of a victim he’d just shat on, it might just be that little bit harder to see serial killing as ‘OK in certain circumstances’.
August Underground is a film about serial killers with ALL the filters off. This is the home movie that a serial killer would actually make. ‘Oh hey Dave, you’re going to love this – here’s that bit where we looked at some statues, oh here’s that bit where I forced a girl to eat shit, oh here’s us getting a burger’. It’s like the most depraved home movie you could imagine. It is a reaction to the fetishisation of murder in film. It is a film maker saying fuck Saw, fuck Dexter, fuck every serial killer film you’ve ever seen, this is what these people are actually like – idiotic juvenile man children who manipulate people to the best of their limited abilities solely so that they can torture and kill for fun. That’s it. No moral, no code of ethics, no discernible talent. Just killing and shit. is this what you wanted? because this is the reality of what you’ve asked for and it is awful.
Its a bit like watching a full length movie of 3 guys 1 hammer (**WARNING** NEVER EVER WATCH 3G1H- READ THE DESCRIPTION ON WIKIPEDIA INSTEAD http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dnepropetrovsk_maniacs) and is actually probably a fairly good representation of what actual spree killers get up to. Oddly, this actually means that this is an exceptionally proficient bit of film. That does not, however, mean that you should watch it.
There is a scene in this film where the characters are escaping from a crime scene and a police car pulls out and starts to follow them. You think that this is the moment where sense will be restored and the authorities will discover their murderous ways and there might even be a happy ending or at least some restitution. Nope. The scene immediately cuts to another, in which they are fine. It is at this moment you realise that the point in this film is not to explore the nature of killers, or to show them being punished so that we can all feel better about ourselves, but rather to show us them getting away with it. The moment of realisation is awful, as you understand that this is just going to keep going until it stops, and that when it does stop, nothing will be better, nothing will change, the world will not be any better.
Just like real violence, I suppose.
Summing up. This is not a film that many people will enjoy. It functions better as a critique on the nature of consuming death as a product, and the glamorisation of serial killing in the media. It works by making you think ‘what the fuck is wrong with me for wanting to watch this’ because, really, what the fuck IS wrong with you? A difficult watch which was made on a shoestring, and for that at least, it should probably be applauded. Its just really hard to convince myself to clap, or to watch the next 2…
I’m off to look at pictures of puppies. You should decide whether you want to watch this, obtain it, then reconsider. You will need to supply your own filters to make this worthwhile, and even then you probably won’t enjoy it as a film, but more as a piece of film making. And for the love of god please don’t watch the 3G1H video.
August Underground – 2 repellent atrocities out of 5