Thursday, January 7, 2016

The August Underground Trilogy

[NOTE: These reviews are combined and republished from my old blog. They were written very soon after each movie was released on DVD.]


Director: Fred Vogel

Cast: Fred Vogel, Kyle Dealman, Casey Eganey, Dan Friedman

Toe Tag Pictures / Color / NTSC R0 / Unrated / Full Frame / Mono / 70 minutes

Extras: An Introduction By Director Fred Vogel / 67 Minute Three-Part Documentary / HAMMER TO THE HEAD A Closer Look At August Underground / August Underground On Location / August Underground Behind The Brutality / August Underground: Too Real For Comfort, An Outsiders Perspective (102 minutes) / 2 Audio Commentaries: Fred Vogel / Victims Ben and Aaron LaBonte & Director Fred Vogel

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August Underground is not a horror movie. August Underground is a hate movie. And even calling it a "movie" is like saying that huffing gas is "doing drugs". There is no plot. No story. Hell, there are really no characters. It's just the exploits of 2 nameless, violent thugs; one the "leader" of sorts (Fred Vogel, also the writer and director), the other a cackling, faceless cameraman. How do you review something like this? Mostly this is me sharing my thoughts and letting the chips fall where they may.

The film starts out in the filth ridden basement of the destructive duo complete with walls and floors caked with shit, piss and porn. A girl tied to a chair, obviously beat up and tortured prior with a nipple cut off for good measure. Her boyfriend lying dead in the tub sans his dick. The girl sits in her own excrement as the 2 poke at her, tease her and degrade her on inhuman levels.  Much more is to come for that poor girl as the movie continues, but there is other hate to be spread. Metal shows to attend with mosh pits to brutalize. Slaughter houses to be visited. Convenience store owners and patrons to victimize. Tattoos to get. And finally, even prostitutes to fuck and destroy.

It's shot on 1 hand-held video camera in a amateur video/snuff style and I can truly say that the dialogue seems real. It seems very natural and unrehearsed. The acting is unbelievably, well, believable. The 2 men seem gleefully sickened by the atrocities they are committing, just like any human being would if they were murderously psychotic. Vogel's "character" even vomits while dismembering one of the bodies because of the smell. If anyone found this on an unmarked VHS tape at someones house and popped it in the ol' VCR, I don't know if they could tell it wasn't genuine.

This isn't my style of movie. I don't know if it's anyone's style. Doesn't something have to have a peer to even be a "style"? All I know is if something affects me in a reptilian kind of way. If it is unrelenting in its focus. That "something" is indeed for me. Don't watch this movie if you are expecting your run-of-the-mill gorefest, complete with cheesy effects and a sense of fantasy. This is the most realistically violent and unforgiving experience you will ever see.

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Director: Fred Vogel

Cast: Fred Vogel, Christie "Crusty" Whiles, Michael T. Schneider

Toe Tag Pictures / Color / NTSC R0 / Unrated / Full Frame / Mono / 70 minutes

Extras: Trailers / Still Gallery / Deleted Scenes / NECROPHAGIA Music Video (With FX from TOETAG)

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After watching the original August Underground I thought that I could not be damaged anymore. Evidently I have no fucking clue what "damaged" means. August Underground's Mordum, the follow up to the highly acclaimed yet much maligned original, goes much further to sicken and unnerve. The gore is more plentiful and the on-screen violence, rape and torture is amped up to ludicrous heights.

Three sadistic thugs - a guy (Fred Vogel), his "girlfriend" (Christie "Crusty" Whiles) and her brother (Michael T. Schneider) - document their incomprehensible exploits with a shaky hand-held video camera. They kidnap, torture, degrade and murder graphically for the lens. All the while there is in-fighting and violence between the 3 because the siblings are incestuous and Vogel's character doesn't like it. Surprisingly in-between all of the mayhem, there is actual characterization showing the relationship dynamics of the 3 pretty clearly. Schneider's character at one point breaks down and Crusty's character consoles and helps him deal with it. It almost gives you a glimpse into their childhood and the shit that must have gone on. They both even share in being "cutters", meaning they cut themselves for some sort of release or pleasure. I don't know which.

But back to the carnage. I don't have words to express the vileness of the torture and degradation depicted here. Aside from the blood and guts of your usual low budget "horror" flick, the sexual perversion and the completely filthy set pieces will sicken even the hardest underground fan. Two chicks are vomited on, a lot. One of the girls is gutted with a box cutter and her wound is then fucked. A dude is made to cut off his own dick with a small pair of scissors and then they fuck his girlfriend with it! But the most fucked up shit is yet to come. They pull no punches. Decapitated babies in garbage cans. Necrophilia on what looks to be a 6-7 year old girl (don't worry, I think the "girl" was a realistic fake rubber doll). That's just a small taste of the shit going on here. Just watch it and see for yourself.

Overall I think the original was more effective. I thought some of the dialogue in this one was silly and some of the scenes ran a little long and got boring but you can't deny the passion that went into it. I think these guys and gals loved making this and doing something that not many (if anyone) else is doing. Crusty's character has got to be one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen. The odd thing is that I think she's is hot in "real life" but there is no way to find her sexy in this role. In closing I have two questions: will I be even more disgusted by the third in the trilogy, Penance and how the hell do you get two grown women to let you puke on them? I just want to know from strictly a "journalistic" point of view...yeah, that's it.

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Director: Fred Vogel

Cast: Fred Vogel, Christie "Crusty" Whiles Toe

Tag Pictures / Color / NTSC R0 / Unrated / Full Screen / Mono / 84 minutes

Extras: Extended and Deleted Scenes / Audio Commentary By TOETAG PICTURES / Documentary : Disemboweled : Behind The Bile / Trailers / Still Gallery Slide Show / Music Video's of "The Murderer Is Back" By Poppa Pill & "The Locust" By RUE

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The third installment of the August Underground trilogy, August Underground's Penance is easily the most emotional and heartbreaking of the series. But don't let that statement lull you into some false sense of security. It still follows the formula of "serial killer's home movies". Killing and maiming innocence of every kind. This time we find a couple (possibly the couple from Mordum sans the brother?) recording their deranged and sadistic antics for posterity. Freddy V. and "Crusty" play the happy couple chronicling everything from the mundane to the horrific and everything in between. Their sick "love" takes them further and further into depravity and darkness until we start to see an unraveling of their emotions and the breakdown of their wills. All of this depreciation of mind, body and spirit turns them against one another. He begins to abuse her after she loses it and begins to sob uncontrollably and he has no idea how to console her. In turn, she begins to seethe hate for him.

You see more into the killers and realize who they are. They share things together like fireworks. He paints "I <3 U" on the ground in ketchup. You can see that there is a definite bond there but it is not healthy. When that bond deteriorates we begin to hear things like her screaming, "You're just like your fucking dad!" as he abuses her off-camera. We also see her need for something that she is missing in her life as she fucks a random guy in the bathroom in one scene. And in another, she acts like a little girl opening Christmas presents.

The three movies of this series all follow a similar path of hate and destruction, but veer from that path at different times. The original was startling and real. Mordum was vile and relentless. Penance was the culmination of the other two and a very real conclusion to something that could only end sadly. The dialogue of the fights between the two was very real. The utter contempt they had for each other was unsettling. I found myself getting upset and uncomfortable. As for the gorehounds, you guys and gals won't be disappointed either. Penance is by far the most effects-heavy of the series. Cruise outdid himself in the blood and guts department. And the depraved violence and rape is there as well. But it plays like a tragic swan song instead of a gorefest and I, for one, think that is as real as it gets.

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