August Underground is a 2001 extreme found footage film, written and directed by Fred Vogel with additional writing from Allen Peters. The film was produced by TOETAG Pictures with effects from TOETAG SFX, whose formation was retroactive after the creation of August Underground and its first sequel August Underground’s Mordum. In 2006, the two companies officially merged to create TOETAG INC, and is most known for creating Cross Bearer (2013), My Uncle John Is a Zombie! (2016), upcoming release Fallen Cards, and, of course, the August Underground trilogy (ending the trilogy with August Underground’s Penance (2017).

Imagine walking down the street and finding an unmarked VHS tape. Curiosity piqued, you take it home and pop it in. What starts off as two men screwing around with a video camera quickly transforms into an ultra-realistic torture sequence where the unidentified psychopaths tape their exploits as they torment and violate a woman tied to a chair. The devastation of your morals continues throughout the entirety of the footage, while subtly revealing the killer’s shattered pasts via the interaction with their victims and each other. The most shockingly realistic portrait of a serial killer’s existence is Fred Vogel’s August Underground.

fred vomiting August Underground (2001)

An audio/visual assault on the senses, August Underground reinforces its realistic, found footage facade with a noticeable shortage of direction or standard levels of cinematography. Whilst this delivers a level of disorientation with the lack of any direct narrative, it certainly enforces a level of pragmatic design within each scene. Though appearing to be random carnage, each segment has had a lot of thought put into its layout and progression yet still maintains an organic validity to them. The perverted “creators” are hardly looking to create a film of artistic merit and are just documenting their daily lives and the debauchery that drives them.

Additionally, rather than be a fly on the wall witnessing the egregious acts of a serial killer, the hidden cameraman has a large presence in the film; taking audible delight in the misery, torture, and killing of the innocence unlucky enough to encounter these vicious murderers, as well as actively taking part in them. Furthermore, having direct control over what the audience can perceive undoubtedly allows a glimpse into this unseen character’s depraved mind as he forces the audience to observe whatever odd details takes his fancy, be it a bowl of human excrement or extreme close-up shots of their victims mutilated and abused bodies.

 

However, one of August Underground’s biggest issues is it’s erratically changing pace. Ranging from highly kinetic and fast-paced to meandering and sluggish, the incredible intensity derived from the film’s action scenes seems to exacerbate the slow nature of its connecting scenes—including an extended scene of a Korn cover band. Undoubtedly, these scenes are extended far beyond their need and tend to drag at points. Despite this, their inclusion in the film is unequivocally necessary, as maintaining an unbroken focus on the torment and killings of their victims would lessen their effect overall.

Implemented in an unapologetically brutal fashion, the special effects featured in August Underground are, unquestionably, one of the driving forces of the film. Handled by Jason Craig, Josh Craig, Richard J. Donahue, Aaron LaBonte, Ben LaBonte, and Greg McDougall; the team goes the extra mile to create a nihilistically authentic representation of agony, suffering, and death. These outstandingly visceral scenes, in combination with the film’s deteriorated visuals, produce a level of believability rarely seen in the genre before or since.

 

August Underground (2001)

An uncomfortably realistic insight into the everyday lives of sadistic serial killers, August Underground undeniably obtains the intended verisimilitude it desired to create. With an uncomfortable performance delivered by all those involved, incredibly detailed special effects, and gritty aesthetics; the film can be a difficult watch at times. Nevertheless, the film is an exceptionally powerful piece of found footage and deserves the notoriety it has garnered over the years.

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August Underground is available to preorder from Unearthed Film’s Website here 

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