“Come on, I got something to show you. You are going to love this.”: ‘August Underground’ Review

Posted in The Screening Room by - August 07, 2017
“Come on, I got something to show you. You are going to love this.”: ‘August Underground’ Review

There’s something about the idea of voyeurism that is inherently tied to the horror genre. The idea of watching something you’re not supposed to ties into the primal nature of horror and suspense. So when it turns into a snuff film, that feeling of uncomfortable dread and unease make the voyeurism seem even more dangerous to the viewer. August Underground is a film that revels in its voyeurism but also one that attempts to deconstruct it, even if it turns exactly into what it’s deconstructing.

One of the main things that August Underground attempts to do is provide the viewer with a true voyeuristic and unsettling experience; in that respect filmmaker, Fred Vogel succeeds in spades. August Underground is a true snuff film experience that perfectly captures the look and dirty feel of watching an underground videotape that you don’t even know where it came from.

The plot itself is very basic and very standard in horror movie tradition. Peter, the main killer in the film, is followed by his accomplice as they perform numerous acts of torment and savagery upon unsuspecting people. One of the more interesting aspects of the film is that the cameraman, whom the movie never tells us who he is or what his relation to Peter truly is, really is the audience surrogate. Not only is he the audience surrogate but you can imagine that Vogel leaves him intentionally unnamed and unseen so that the audience can put themselves directly in his shoes (or lens, for lack of a better word).

Vogel uses this character to ask exactly the provocative questions that his film wants to deliver: why do people find it fascinating to watch people get murdered on screen? Granted this is a film that has captured the imagination of many horror filmmakers and classics of the genre, including most recently with Drew Goddard’s excellent The Cabin in the Woods. While Cabin takes a more meta and supernatural approach to the question, August decides to focus on using a notoriously controversial form of video to tackle that idea.

While it’s admirable that Vogel takes the idea of sticking to the snuff film format, August is not for everybody. The gratuitous violence, deviance, and grimy look make it inherently uncomfortable to witness and thus make it more of a tough sit than something like The Cabin in the Woods. Not to mention that by at times sticking to the rules of snuff films, Vogel doesn’t deconstruct them or do anything new with them, but rather chooses to embrace the tropes and style of the sub genre of horror.

August Underground doesn’t aim to subvert the expectations, but rather it embraces its snuff film heritage with pride. Vogel’s film is not a commentary on the nature of snuff films, and while there’s an interesting point to be made with the cameraman point of views, there’s just not enough there to make August Underground become a true benchmark in the realm of horror. Vogel’s film is a shock for the sake of shock, and that’s exactly what it feels like when one watches it.

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