Dir. Fred Vogel (2001)
Two friends (who also happen to be sociopaths) make a home movie showing their serial killing exploits.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
There aren't a whole lot of films out there that are harder to watch than Fred Vogel's 2001 "masterpiece" August Underground. Filmed entirely in a found footage style and featuring some of the most brutal and realistic gore ever put on film, AU was a film that nearly every huge fan of gore and splatter films recommended as one of the best of the genre. It was also impossible to find for years, with copies going on Ebay for nearly a hundred dollars for just one of the films in the trilogy. Like the gore films of yore, most people's introduction to Vogel and his brand of cinema was in bootlegs and pirated copies, so the recent announcement that Unearthed Films was planning to release the series was a welcome one for fans of depraved cinema everywhere.
And make no mistake, August Underground is absolutely depraved. It has more in common with one of the viral cartel videos on the darker corners of the internet than it does to mainstream horror cinema. The film follows two serial killers and their exploits as they maim, mutilate, and rape their victims. There's also very little else that happens: this is a movie that doesn't care anything at all about plot and instead is dedicated to being one of the most realistic depictions of murder ever made. It's so realistic that it's not hard to imagine someone thinking it was real, a legitimate depiction of murder and mayhem. Thankfully, it's not, and rather serves as a vehicle for director Fred Vogel, who also founded ToeTag Pictures and is much more well known as a special effects man, to showcase those special effects.
The downside of a film with no plot is, of course, that there's absolutely no plot. The movie is only for people who want to see how realistic a movie can be rather than someone looking to watch a movie. It's easy to explain to others the value of a movie that just so happens to have some extreme elements. It's a much harder sell in a movie with literally no artistic value beyond its extremity. The value is, therefore, debatable for anyone who is not into the absolute limits of horror on camera. If you're not looking to watch a realistic depiction of someone being tortured on camera, you have absolutely no reason to watch the film.
I am certainly not one to doubt the importance of films like this. I began my website as an attempt to watch (and review) all of the most extreme horror movies of all time, and the August Underground Trilogy was one of my first ventures. Far be it from me to criticize someone for their taste in movies. Nevertheless, the singular focus of Vogel's extreme trilogy of films is difficult to parse: it's edgy for the sake of being edgy, like teenagers trying desperately to impress their friends with the lengths they're willing to go to swear in front of their parents.
The one interesting part of the film (assuming that you're not interested in the extreme brutality) is the depiction of the men when they're not killing their victims. August Underground shows the youths at an underground rock concert, where fights break out and people dance with little to no concern about the people around them. It shows youth to be exactly what the adults fear that it is, ferocious savages that can't even tame themselves around each other. The pair's murderous rampage is, therefore, simply an extension of their behaviors in public: they are no less depraved and amoral in their public lives as they are in private.
And that's really the main sticking point of the film. It's not just depravity, and it's not just immorality. It's amorality, the true sociopathic nature present in those most dangerous to our societies. Vogel's film shows people who are truly dangerous, who enjoy every minute of their sick and disturbing game. They torture people just to torture them, continually coming up with more and more ways to stoop even further into the realm of degradation and wickedness. It's a hard watch, largely because things like this have actually happened. The lack of plot, unfortunately, makes it even more difficult to defend.
Who this movie is for: Extreme horror fans, Gore lovers with a strong stomach, The Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs
Bottom line: August Underground has very little value outside of being an exploration of the most extreme horror film possible. While the gore becomes even more extreme as the series goes on, the debauchery is unrelenting from the very beginning of the film. It's not an easy watch, nor is it a particularly pleasurable one for those looking to watch an actual movie. But if you're looking for one of the most extreme and difficult to find films ever made, you simply cannot bypass Vogel's cult classic. Just don't say I didn't warn you. If you are a fan of extreme cinema, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up immediately from Unearthed Films, where it fits perfectly among their collection of disturbing cinema.