In 2001, A few friends from Pennsylvania decided to band together to show a side of Horror that most wouldn’t want to know or see. Fred Vogel and Toetag Pictures came into the independent Horror scene showing veracity and pure depravity with their debut picture, August Underground (2001)… Now this isn’t just any low budget film with shoddy effects or a lack of credibility. This is a visceral punch to the gut, full of some of the worst things you can imagine.
Before I get further in to detail, let me say I do not personally condone any acts that take place during these films. I am just an aficionado of obscure and extreme films. These just happen to be some of the most extreme that you can view.
Sickening from the First Frame
The film begins straight away with a woman tied to a chair gagged, covered in blood, and being harassed by two men. One is Peter Mountain, played by Fred Vogel himself, and the other, his friend is never really shown. This scene goes on for a bit and she is verbally abused and teased with food and beverage that she is refused. This abruptly ends and the movie cuts to the killers driving down what seems to be farm roads having everyday discussions about picking up a girl.
Cut to night and we are still on the back roads. After a few minutes the killers spot the fore mentioned female walking home alone. They stop and offer a ride and she accepts, not knowing their plans. Being a smooth talker, Peter Mountain (Fred Vogel) coerces her to flash her breasts and to pleasure herself. He then pulls of the road beside a farm and has her perform sexual acts on him before bludgeoning her.
Quickly, the film shifts back to the house with their captive female and any remaining uncertainty about the direction that this film is going evaporates. Our unseen cameraman starts to poke and prods the victim and asks Peter if there are more gloves and…
Doody Alert (Explicit)
In the interests of serving the whole horror community, Malevolent Dark feels a compelling need to cover some of the most extreme horror available. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that we run across things so repulsive that they literally turn our horror hardened stomachs. It feels necessary to provide the proper alerts and to appropriately denote that information so that readers are appropriately forewarned. You may expand the following text at your discretion.
There are no more so he grabs a magazine on the floor and begins to scoop up the captive’s feces and tries to make her eat it. He then wipes it all over her and grabs more with his bare hands. I don’t normally get grossed out that much visually but writing this is almost getting to me. She refuses to eat her own waste so he gathers more and continues performing vile acts.
What We are Trying to Say is…
The important thing to call out here is not the graphic detail, but rather the depraved nature of how August Underground approaches business. To make a clear statement that this film is a no-holds-barred torture porn fest that refuses to pull any punches. This is territory that very few films dare to go, and for good reason. In most cases this serves only to alienate much of the horror viewing population. Yet, there are those among us that want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, and August Underground dives to those subterranean depths.
An Exercise in Torture Porn
During all of this Peter is in the next room gagging and stating how bad a guy stinks. We soon find him hunched over a bath tub in only an apron and underwear, cutting up a body. This is a disgusting bathroom covered in blood and even the toilet is filled with blood. Peter then starts vomiting due to the intense smells of the body and the camera man heads back to our bound victim. Peter then comes out with the hand of the dismembered body. We soon find out it is the female’s boyfriend and she is forced to eat his toe.
As if any of this were not enough, one of the men decides to take a sexual favor from the woman, and considering the events heretofore, this may result in the most disgusting affronts to our fragile sensibilities and now shattered sanity.
To say it simply, Fred Vogel’s film makes the torture sequences in standard Cinéma Vérité films like Martyrs (2008) look like child’s play.
Never Lost Footage
One of the more unsettling things that sets this movie apart from others is method in which it was produced. This film is shot from the perspective of a man filming the exploits of he and his friend as they embark on a murderous rampage. In that sense, it shares a stark similarity to the hand-held films of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris just prior to their crimes. Knowing full well how the subsequent events played out in real-life, the cinematography evokes an unintentional emotional response. Certainly this technique also offered significant budgetary advantages for a fledgling filmmaker.
Furthermore, the actors performances are all too real. By this, I certainly don’t mean that they are Oscar worthy. Instead, the performances have an eerie awkwardness that lends to its authenticity. It crosses into that cringeworthy territory that we all may have caught ourselves in after being filmed impromptu at a party or event. Further adding to the credibility is the fact that the footage includes scenes not directly connected to murder or heinous acts. It’s as if the cameraman simply captures footage of their young lives, and despicable murder is just one of those things.
A Campaign of Violence
Throughout the rest of the film, the pair continue their reign of terror. In their wake, they leave a trial of broken bodies. They assault and murder an old women after convincing her to let them carry her groceries.
In a convenience store, the pair eat food without paying and the manager confronts them. They are forced out but Peter returns a few minutes later. He pretends to apologize and pay while also purchasing a magazine, which he then hits the manager with and runs. You would think that would be all but they come back being fully sadistic. Peter runs in and stabs the manager in his side and leaves him there to bleed out. It’s right here where we get a weird sense of sadistic realism.
They notice two people hiding in the back of the store. Rather than ending their lives, they instead just humiliate them. They basically just keep them both on the ground while verbally abusing them. It is then Peter has the weird idea to make them sniff each other’s butt. It is so strange and messed up. Once the boyfriend has done the deed, they get her to do the same. It reinforces this theme that these are just a couple of young idiot punks that take things to sadistic extremes.
Later we see vacation style footage of our two main characters going to the Roadside America tourist attraction. Then we get to the tattoo shop where Peter gets a leg tattoo. This interaction obviously doesn’t go well for the shop owners. Somehow Peter gets them down to a basement where he removes one brother’s leg and has the other tied to a chair. Eventually both are beaten to death with a hammer.
In a final act of depravity, these sick individuals employ two prostitutes. Their initial interactions seem normal, but we are certain that will not remain the case for long. After fornicating, one girl and the camera head to the basement to find Peter is bashing her friend’s head in with a hammer while having sex. The friend realizes what is happening and runs into the darkness. The two men are chasing her, the movie cuts out and all you hear is her scream.
August Underground Does What it Intends
August Underground does everything that it sets out to do, but the loftiness of that goal is very questionable.
At this point, it’s an understatement to say that this movie is severely messed up. I definitely don’t recommend this to the average horror movie enthusiast. However, for those those searching for a more extreme cinema, August Underground is the definition of extreme. There are parts of this movie that seem very real. Horror fans that have watched films from Marian Dora, you’ll be able to stomach this. Take heed my warning and brace yourself if you decide to watch any of Fred Vogel’s work.
The good news, or bad depending on your point of view, is that there are two more sickening installments of the August Underground to behold!