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August Underground(2001)(Review)

‘August Underground’ is an extreme found-footage film that has quite the reputation around it. Anytime you search for a “most intense” or “most disturbing” movie list, it usually ranks rather highly. It’s been a film that’s eluded me for a long time – mostly because I don’t have any friends who were willing to watch it with me – but due to the upcoming release from our friends over at Unearthed Films, I’ve finally popped my hammer-smashed-cherry.

Peter is a serial killer who invites his friend into his basement where he is holding a woman hostage. His friend has a video camera and absolutely loves what he’s seeing. At this point in time, Peter has already murdered the woman’s lover, cut him into pieces in the bathtub, and is taunting the woman with her lover’s body parts. While they duct tape one of his severed fingers into her mouth and slice off parts of her body, they cover her in excrement, sling spit-worthy vulgarity in her face, and laugh at her suffering. Right out the gate, this film displays how gritty and grotesque it aims to be, and it never takes its foot off the pedal.

Between the handheld shaky-cam footage that looks like it’s been lifted directly off of a handheld camcorder in the late 90’s, the complete joy Peter is having while he performs these acts, and even subtle additions of things such as having him gagging while slicing up a body – this movie just drips in violent sweat and realism. As the film progresses, we follow this delinquent duo as they continue to perform random acts of violence on many different victims.

Peter is played by the director himself, Fred Vogel, who has risen to infamy through many intense features, and the persistence of his personal label, Toetag Pictures. Throughout the scenes of violence, we are also given intermittent breaks where we see things such as the two of them getting a tour of a slaughterhouse, attending a metal concert, and getting tattooed. Again, this all lends to the realism that this film completely exploits in the best of ways.

The suggested context for this film is the idea of, ‘what if you found an unlabeled videotape on the side of the road. You bring it home, pop it into your VHS player, and this is what you find.’ It’s a haunting experience that bounces between sadism, pitch-black humor, and a deeply grounded sense of reality that makes for a queasy experience. It can be hard to watch at times for a few different reasons (such as the shakiness, the video grain, and the gore), but it also adds to the feeling of almost daring yourself to get through it.

Over 20 years after it’s birth into the unwilling world, it truly lives up to its reputation. The director went on to turn the ‘August Underground’ series into a trilogy, which is rumored to grow more and more grotesque – but I have yet to see them, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing about those from us soon when Unearthed puts them out in the near future.

The bottom line is this film is mean, it’s filthy, and it’s unapologetic. And as nervous as I was to watch it for my first time, I’ve gotta say, I’m quite curious to see what happens next.

Unearthed Films is releasing this film with a brand new transfer to Bluray & DVD which features brand new commentaries, storyboards, many interviews (both vintage and new), and even video essays. It is being released on August 15th, 2023, and can be ordered directly from their website here:


‘Til Next Time,
Mike Cleopatra

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