Mordum (August Underground)

Discussion in 'Reader Reviews' started by dwatts, Sep 4, 2007.

  1. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    A recent event reminded me that I've not bothered to post one of my long, laughable, and rather silly reviews on this site for quite a while. So I thought I'd put up my latest crazy diatribe/rant/stupid review. :lol:

    More-Dumb.

     
  2. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    And Part Two of Too Much:

     
  3. DVD Connoisseur

    DVD Connoisseur Active Member

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    While I don't share the same view of these films, this is a great review.

    Have you seen Penance? You'd probably hate it but I was more than impressed...
     
  4. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    To be honest, I've not seen August Underground nor Penance. Frankly, they're a bit pricey for such titles, so it might be some time before I get to see them - if ever. I got this one through a trade on this very web site.

    Add to that the issue of these titles being grabbed by customs coming into the UK, and we have a problem.

    Still - curiousity is peeked, and I'd certainly give them a go to see what effect they could have. Basically with a film such as this I find I have to have a good think about them to position them in my mind.

    Interested in your views on this title (and other Toe Tag films) though.

    Looking back through my comments above, I'm amused to find a contradiction.

    Yet I also wrote by way of being critical:

    So maybe I'm not giving the Toe Tag folk enough credit?
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2007
  5. Ash28M

    Ash28M Active Member

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    Nice Review Dwatts. Even though I'm not as huge fan of these types of films, I have to disagree that these films exist only to shock. It may seem that way on the surface and most likely that was the creators only intention. I think though that there is allot to be said about the Nihilism that these films portrait and how they reflect the current times.
     
  6. DVD Connoisseur

    DVD Connoisseur Active Member

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    My thoughts on the trilogy:

    The August Underground Trilogy (2001 - 2007)

    Three low-budget, shot-on-video productions which appear, to the unknowing viewer, to be actual "snuff" movies created by young serial killers. These ground-breaking films have been released on DVD in special editions that show an incredibly loving attention to the quality of the releases, in terms of both packaging and content. These are genre movies made by fans for lovers of envelope pushing, challenging horror. "Penance" was one of the most anticipated DVDs in my collection and it delivers its horror in an extremely efficient manner whilst treating the subject matter in an intelligent fashion. Behind the madness and carnage portrayed on screen is genuine talent.

    August Underground (2001)

    I really believe that "August Underground"'s an amazing achievement for such a low budgeted film. At less than $2000, the shoe-string budget's probably that of a day's catering bill for a blockbuster movie. The acting's quite incredible and the effects are extremely realistic and uncompromising. I think that one of the reasons why the film is successful is that Fred Vogel knows the limitations of what he can produce on the budget he has to work with. As a result, there are no papier-mache decaying corpses as seen in "Scrapbook". Such sights (and a lot more) were saved for the over-the-top grotesque thrills and spills of the sequel, "Mordum". What we have is a very real looking environment complete with various trophies, coupled with some of the best performances I've ever seen in a film of this nature. Fred Vogel's performance is spot on - having seen the mastermind behind the "August Underground" projects in the recently released DVD set's interviews, his screen persona is very different to the real Fred. What we see on screen is a character that is without morals, for whom killing is as casual as buying a beer. Vogel's ability to bring out such strong performances from his fellow cast-members should not be underestimated. He's done a fantastic job in creating an extremely realistic series of scenes.

    My only reservation about the movie is the deliberate level of degradation that was applied to the video quality. The presentation of the film is that of a 5th generation tape. Arguably, this enhances the effect of the movie but I'd have liked to have seen less video distortion and a little more clarity.

    While not to everybody's tastes, it's my view that "August Underground"'s one of the most important horror films to be made, taking the horror genre in a new direction and showing young, up-and-coming film-makers that a lack of budget is less important than imagination, drive and hard work.

    August Underground's Mordum (2003)

    "Mordum", the sequel to the impressive "August Underground", is strong stuff. This is take-no-prisoners, in-your-face, dirty and unrelenting low budget horror.

    The film begins with "August Underground"'s Fred Vogel discovering his girlfriend acting in a most intimate way with her own brother. This sets the bleak tone for the film even before the violence and psychological terror begins.

    While the original is a relatively small affair, "August Underground's 'Mordum'" is an ambitious monster of a serial killer film. What gives the sequel its power is the introduction of Cristie Whiles, whose performance is blood-chillingly realistic as the psychotic Crusty. Whiles goes way beyond the call of duty to make this film believable and her scenes are harrowingly realistic.

    Vogel himself takes something of a backseat in this film, leaving the carnage largely to the new members of the cast. There are scenes which are genuinely shocking in "Mordum" and the film takes the viewer out of the comfort zone and into an area where morality is shattered and taboos are broken. It's ironic that the monster from the first film, Vogel, actually acts as a spokesperson for the viewer when the brother and sister's behaviour crosses boundaries that are unacceptable even to him. To list the catalogue of atrocities in this film would dilute the shock but the viewer will be confronted with disturbing imagery that they will find difficult to forget.

    The make-up and prosthetic effects are hugely impressive but it's the psychological horror that gives the film such an effective kick. The dialogue is realistic and frighteningly cruel. What we have with "Mordum" is an anti-serial killer film that turns the genre on its head and shows violence is not glamorous and stylish but vile and sickening. This film will leave some viewers shaken and slightly queasy.

    It's so difficult to rate this production. For its ability to shock and deliver gruesome sights on a zero budget, it scores a 10. Some horror fans will genuinely hate this film. It's not easy viewing and challenges the viewer as to why they're watching the grisly, sick splattered events unfold. However, the film is well structured despite its initial impression of being disorganised and it rewards a repeat viewing with a greater understanding of the psychology behind some of the characters.

    To use the old cliché, "Not for those of a nervous disposition," would be a gross understatement. This is unapologetic, uncompromising underground horror that goes beyond what is considered as acceptable for shocks. Vogel's team have delivered a memorable zero-budget masterpiece that is raw but brutally effective. Love it or hate it, the film will evoke an emotional reaction in any viewer.

    August Underground's Penance (2007)

    The final part in the "August Underground" trilogy has been a long awaited affair. Four years after the over-the-top graphic spectacle of "Mordum", Toe Tog Pictures' "Penance" has finally seen the cold light of day. With much expectation behind Vogel's concluding chapter in this bloody series, there was always the danger of the production being a disappointment for the legion of fans around the world. Thankfully, the finished film is an accomplished offering that is actually better than its predecessors.

    Starting with a surprising scene in which things don't go quite as planned for Vogel's character and his equally disturbed girlfriend, again played by Cristie Whiles, the film then takes a temporary break into normality. It must be said, Whiles is always a delight to watch. Introduced in "Mordum" as a psychotic powerhouse with a penchant for vomiting and abusing her female captives, her character in "Penance" is going through a transformation. Physically, Whiles looks different in this film - gone are the confrontational punk looks of the earlier film, replaced by a beautiful girl-next-door appearance. Vogel is instantly recognisable - a huge bear of a man with a kind face that turns psychotically satanic when events start to go bad. Vogel's the mastermind behind the series and his presence in the film is a welcome one. In "Mordum", Vogel had been on the outskirts of most of the action. Here, he's well and truly involved and the film's a return to the style of the original "August Underground".

    Watching the two characters enjoy a break is entertaining and the viewer can enjoy the relative peace before the storm. In fact, I actually found myself dreading the moments when their normal behaviour started to change and they started to explore their darker obsessions. Their run-in with a homeless man, realistically played by Toetag fan and competition winner Fuctup, is the first sign during their vacation that these characters won't be at peace for long.

    For those seeking gore and violence, this installment won't disappoint but it's not the same intense, fluid-splattered, unrelenting roller-coaster as "Mordum". The set-pieces in "Penance" seem more confidently delivered. There's less emphasis on the extreme and more time spent on character development and atmosphere. If anything, it's a hybrid of the first two films, taking the best elements of both and coming up with an end result that's well paced and satisfying.

    What really works in favour of "Penance" is the clean, crisp presentation of the video footage. The absence of any degradation of the video source gives the impression that the viewer is watching the original digital tape, straight out of the camera. As a result, there's been more time spent on the serial killers' set-dressing and the wonderfully grisly and original effects. Gorehounds take note - Jerami Cruise's work on "Penance" is splendid.

    As with the earlier films, this is a confrontational horror film. It takes no prisoners, from its startling Christmas intruder scene and numerous scenes of sexual humiliation and rape to the real demise of a rat at the jaws of a hungry 'gator. "Penance" will undoubtedly offend a lot of viewers but despite its characters, the film has a moral centre. "August Underground"'s message is a simple one. Violence is not sexy.

    There's a moment in the film when the characters watch a lion being fed raw "meat", some of which you wouldn't expect to find in your local supermarket. It's probably not intentional but the lion seems a metaphor for the killers. They're trapped in a world where they're forced to take scraps to stay alive, caged in an environment where their true natures are constrained largely by society's rules.

    When the film reaches its climatic, sudden and ambiguous end, there's a feeling of sadness. Sadness for the tragic waste of life that's been displayed on the screen for some 80-odd minutes? Perhaps. The tale certainly makes you reflect on what you've seen and the bleakness of it all. But there's also sadness that this is very probably the final installment ever of "August Underground", a series that has reinvented the horror genre and taken viewers to a new, disturbing place.

    10 out of 10. Love it or hate it, this is an incredible achievement for a zero-budgeted independent film. I'm confident that Toe Tag will become more mainstream in the future. Such a move is essential for monetary reasons alone. However, I'll miss the on-screen chemistry of Vogel and Whiles. They've shown a new face of horror that doesn't wear a hockey mask and which is frighteningly real.
     
  7. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    Thanks for your detailed response, DVD Connoisseur. It's a good read from someone with a very different view of these films. Which, of course, is fair enough - we all have our own personal viewpoint.

    There are a couple of points that I'd counter, if I may.

    When writing my own review I tried to think of some films that were direct antecedent's of Mordum. The three central characters are really an updated Krug and Co - and are no more nihilistic. Couple that with films such as Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer, which includes brutal murders and rape (along with a home invasion) - and once again I think we have a direct line between the past and this film (I'm going to contain my comments to Mordum only, since it's the only one I've seen - is there anywhere to get these within the UK so I can avoid customs?)

    Along with the likes of Peeping Tom, Last Horror Movie, Flower of Flesh and Blood and so on - the movies I mentioned in my own review - I think claims that Mordum represent a "new direction" are questionable. What they are is "new", and a more modern update to the other films I've mentioned, but not really a step in another direction.

    While it is clearly an issue that there was very little budget to go around, and that such filmmaking ought to be appluaded, I can't bring myself to overlook all issues these movies have because of it. I feel as though Vogel lacked imagination, having locked onto the lowest common denominator. And why make three of these films? (Maybe that's clearer if you see them back-to-back).

    This is an interesting statement, and one I can attest too. I had heard about the infant scene, and when it came on the screen I could give it little more than a shrug. If I had not known anything about it, it might have worked better (I hedge slightly just because one should always be open minded, but I'm quite sure going in unaware would have heightened the impact).

    Isn't it interesting though that knowing what is in this film neuters it so effectively? I mean, I know the scares in The Haunting, but they freak me out each time. I get a thrill when the Bride of Frankenstein breathes, and I marvel as Nosferatu comes back to life on the boat. Yet, a simple gore scene can have its energy drained simply by the knowledge it exists. Even the so called "realistic" violence is rendered quite ho-hum by the knowledge it's coming.

    I have not had a repeat viewing of this film - but I truly question how effective it would be. Mind you, it's likely also damaged by my general viewpoint that Mordum just isn't enough of anything to be truly special.

    Still - I really enjoyed you views. These film, as you state, certainly give us something to think about.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2007

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