So hereís the thing: Hollywood glorifies violence while independent films show violence for what it is. Thatís the mindset. I canít say how many views Iíve read on August Underground praising it for finally giving us a pair of real serial killers. The fact that these two act nothing like serial killers seems to have passed everyone by. Or the fact that while not necessarily glorifying violence, it actually does one better and makes violence something to anticipate rather than fear (this is worse than glorifying, people).
Two ďserial killersĒ go from victim to victim, sometimes killing them outright, other times bringing them down to their basement to have a little fun. Thereís a woman tied to a chair with one nipple cut off. Thereís a castrated man in the bathtub with his guts hanging out. For our two killers, thereís nothing funnier.
We follow these guys throughout murders and beatings, enough to make the movie seem more like a macabre Jackass than a movie . . . seem more like a snuff film.
Fred Vogel (serial killer number 2) and Allen Peters (serial killer number 1, the one behind the camera) are believable as twisted freaks. Vogel, the only one of the two thatís ever seen, gives a show so natural that heís either destined for bigger things, or is just a sick fuck and will only shine in sick fuck movies. The rest of the cast - from hookers to twin brothers - are just fine. Great, in fact.
Fred Vogel, who also happens to be the director, goes for a homemade movie vibe and succeeds wonderfully. The beginning in particular is just gut-wrenching. The simultaneous profound-yet-casual feelings that collides when the first victim is introduced is just bizarre; how that shot was handled, on the other hand, is brilliant.
Thereís no soundtrack, except for some heavy metal that plays in the scenes themselves.
So August Underground bills itself as the ďsickest movie everĒ. Is it? Well just to give you a better understanding of this, of my reaction, let me run down my ďqualificationsĒ . . .
I saw Audition first. Then Battle Royale . Then Irreversible . After those three I jumped headfirst into August Underground, which is supposedly as extreme as extreme can get. What was I thinking? Well, aside from the opening, this movie is very tame. After the opening most of the events could have been shown to the mainstream audience. Thatís right. Mainstream. Se7en and 8mm were just as bad as the later stuff, which, when youíre calling yourself the ďsickest movie everĒ, is an insult.
Allís not lost for gore hounds and people looking for a good jolt. The opening, which has the two killers going down into their basement, is very intense and very 'extreme'. I was contemplating just turning the damned thing off at this point, fearing what was next. Silly me--there was nothing next. We get some people punched (which really ruins the mood, since itís very obvious that the fist stops a good three feet away from anyoneís face), someone covered in blood . . . some people with blood on their faces . . . and . . . oh, and a brief scene of a hooker being hit in the head with a hammer (it isn't as bad as it sounds; like the punches, itís obviously not real and again ruins the mood). Thatís it. The only ďhardcoreĒ parts of this movie involve the girl with one nipple (who dies a little while after the opener).
Now while not necessarily a flaw, it's a slip-up: these two arenít serial killers. Donít get that impression. They are stupid, childish freaks who go at people like they were dolls. And although everyone is averse to Hollywood, serial killers are by-and-by intelligent people, just as Hollywood portrays them. These are children with knives. The reason that isnít a flaw is because it ups the ante since we as an audience have never seen murderers portrayed in this way. So they're unpredictable.
There's very little blemishes in its execution, but what's there is huge. Huge enough to bring Underground down to nothing more than an average movie. I'll even go as far to say it's forgettable, and when you're dealing with what this movie deals with, that's a no-no.
This huge flaw is that Underground does not show violence as a horrible thing. When watching the opening youíre going to think Iím crazy. But keep watching. And make note of the point near the end when youíre thinking ďkill them alreadyĒ. Then youíll realize what Iím talking about. See, there is a scene later in Underground where the leads play around with some hookers. All through that scene I guarantee you will be bored. At first, the mellow points are a relief in this movie. I was so glad when the opening stopped and we were transported to a car. But as the film goes on it turns from us wanting the violence to let up to wanting the violence to intensify. And therein lies this filmís fault, because I should've been fearing the violence.
I would say that since these characters werenít developed, or since the plot was not complex, that the film has messed up. But that isnít the point. Itís an emulation of a snuff movie. Why watch it? The same reason that you would watch a real snuff film for a few brief seconds after alerting the police. Or the same reason you could be ignoring the news and reading, but when the anchor says ". . . brutally murdered" you look up suddenly. Still, Underground could have snuck in some development in the leads.
One thing I need to mention, what I liked, is the dialogue at the graveyard. There is a comment about the Bible and the statues, and you could very easy shrug it off as just standard hick talk. The thing is, this statement is actually a little profound. It speaks volumes about the movie. Listen for it.
August Underground is a fine concept. It wants to horrify us, to show us how terrible violence really is. And to itís credit it really does in the opener, even if by the end that message is completely destroyed and exploited.
Acting, directing, and the absent score are all up to snuff (pun intended). But for all the shock of the opener, Underground slowly degenerates into something along the lines of a comedy that isnít funny, a thriller that isnít thrilling, or a drama that isnít dramatic.
5/10--a snuff film mimic that eventually slides into exploitation, where it then loses impact
28 Days Later : 7/10
Alien : 6/10
Audition : 7/10
August Underground : 5/10
Battle Royale : 8/10
Cannibal Holocaust : 9/10
Dawn of the Dead : 5/10
Day of the Dead: 8/10
The Dead Zone : 7/10
Donnie Darko : 10/10
The Eye : 7/10
Elephant : 6/10
Freaky Friday: 8/10
Ginger Snaps : 7/10
Hardcore : 6/10
Hellboy : 6/10
House of 1000 Corpses : 4/10
House of Sand and Fog : 9/10
Hulk : 10/10
Irreversible : 8/10
Kill Bill Volume 1 : 8/10
Kung Pow! Enter the Fist : 7/10
Last House on the Left: 3/10
May : 10/10
Memento : 8/10
Mulholland Drive : 7/10
Near Dark : 6/10
One Hour Photo : 9/10
Perfect Blue: 9/10
Requiem For a Dream : 8/10
Se7en : 9/10
Terminator 2: Judgment Day : 10/10
Thesis : 6/10
Underworld : 7/10
Willard : 8/10
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 5) : A
Neon Genesis Evangelion - Perfect Collection : B-
End of Evangelion : A-
Stephen King's IT : 5/5 stars
Last edited by C-Desecration-; 09-20-2004 at 05:49 PM..
I have August Underground Mordum and after seeing that I think i'll pass on the first one. I didn't like one second of it. Not even in a horrified sort of way like Irreversible, Men Behind the Sun, Flower of Flesh and Blood, Naked Blood, etc. THis was just lame no budget hacks doing gross things.