Actors: Fred Vogel, Allen Peters, AnnMarie Reveruzzi
Synopsis: Self-proclaimed "sickest film ever made". Mock-home video footage of a man in his early 20's going on a serial killer like killing spree.
For a long time I've been hearing about the August Underground series being talked about amongst horror enthusiasts. Most of the talk was about how "sick" or "brutal" the film was. I never made a real attempt to search the film out because a great number of times the trilogy was compared to the Asian Guinea Pig films, which I find to be incredibly boring no matter how gory they are. Don't get me wrong, I like gore but there needs to be substance.
So last night I stumbled upon a copy of the first of the series, the original August Underground. There is no real plot to the film other than 2 teenagers go on a killing spree and film their carnage every step of the way. The cinematography is that of a VHS type snuff film. It's grainy and even includes tracking problems. It's the definition of a hand-held camera movie.
The gore is the saving grace of this film and is the only reason people should even consider watching this film. The tagline of being the "sickest film ever made" might actually hold up here. The guys behind this film did an excellent job with makeup. From the dead body rotting in the bathtub, to the severed nipple, to the bucket of feces and vomit, the gore looked incredibly realistic. I think shooting that the use of a standard camcorder added to making the mess look real. I can now fully understand why the director/writer, Fred Vogel was arrested while trying to bring this into Canada. The creators did do such a good job with makeup that the film comes off as a legit snuff film.
Aside from the gore/makeup/realism, the film is complete trash. It is so bad I wish I knew where to begin. The acting, if you want to call it that, is about par for a middle school play. The best acting was done by the naked girl that was being tortured. But being bound to a chair, sobbing, while covered in blood, is far from acting. She did., however, make her agony believable. The killers reminded me of ICP fans that try to act twisted. It was more annoying than shocking. If the film wasn't filmed on a standard camcorder than they did a great job of making it seem like it. The camera work was so sporadic and shaky that I had trouble not vomiting from nausea. I hope for the other two films of the trilogy they worked with steadier hands and employed the use of a tripod.
The worst part about the film is the lack of plot. Even other "home video" films such as The Blair Witch Project and Cannibal Holocaust have a reason. August Underground is just a series of scenes spliced together. The film would work better if it was billed as the tapes found in the killers' basement or something along those lines. Without a storyline I felt my interest slip away with each passing minute. The Toetag guys didn't help their cause either by throwing in useless scenes like showing one of the killers attending a Korn cover band show. The scene did set up one of the last victims in the film but it was too the point where I hit fast forward and that is something I never do while watching a film for the first time. On top of the concert scene there is another painfully long scene that involves two "sluts" that are only there to take off their clothes and (horribly) act like they are into the two leads. After 5 minutes I found myself fast forwarding again to ease the aching in both my eyes and my brain.
This is one of those movies that nerds within the horror community name drop to sound like they have some credibility. These types of films will never be respected by me. Although this is probably is the sickest film I've ever seen, it might just also be the worst film I've ever seen as well. Just like the Blair Witch Project, but for other reasons, this film could have been shortened to 20-30 minutes to be more effective. The film clocks in at just over an hour and I felt every single minute of it.
I give this film an F+. I would have given it a full F but the realism with the makeup is really good for apparent amateurs. This film belongs in the category of films with the Faces Of Death movies...view once to say you saw it and then throw it away.