Friday, May 16, 2014

August Underground Trilogy: A Colossal Waste Of Time

I recently watched all three of the August Underground movies (August Underground, Mordum, and Penance), strictly for the intent of reviewing them for my site and just to be able to say I have seen them. Ugh. I regretted my decision almost instantly. These films annoyed me to no end. I really wanted to duck out early instead of finishing them, but I pushed through. By the end of the third movie, I felt completely sick to my stomach. No, the gore didn't make me nauseous; I was sick that I had wasted so much time on these when there are so many other worthwhile things I could've done. I decided to review it as a trilogy, mainly so that I wouldn't have to devote any more space or time to these films than I had to.

Fred Vogel, the director and lead actor of the AU movies, is living the dream. He's directing and starring in his own films, and is making big bucks doing it, I'm sure. He owns his own production company, ToeTag Pictures, which is slowly working to become a legitimate player in the horror genre. And good on him, I suppose. Everybody deserves to be able to make their place in the world, and if your deal is movies, you deserve the opportunity to make your own stuff and send it out into the world. I'm not one of those people who believes that certain movies shouldn't be released, or that we should censor ANYTHING. So for real, good on Fred Vogel for finding his audience. I just personally hope that I never run into any of his audience in a dark alley. People who watch these movies and genuinely enjoy it make me worry for the future of our society.

Look, I like gore as much as the next guy, and some of my favorite horror movies are straight up splatterfests. But at some point, if you're going to make movies, you have to actually make a movie. You can't just focus on how much ridiculously contrived blood and guts you can put in a movie and expect it to be taken seriously. Truly, by the end of Penance, the third film in the series, it had moved past the point of ridiculousness and had gotten kinda boring. How much work does it actually take to make a series of movies with this level of violence in them that comes off as boring and monotonous? At almost 4 hours in length, it was the feeling that my time was wasted that bothered me the most.
Do you know how hard it is to find a picture from these movies that I feel comfortable showing on my site?
I gotta say, as much as I didn't enjoy these movies, I do respect Vogel for what he's trying to do, and quite frankly, if he had had another star in these films, I probably would've found them much more enjoyable. It was Vogel himself who I found the most annoying, and his random screaming made me wish my volume was a little bit lower. Maybe I'm just not a homicidal lunatic enough to know that that's how they really behave, but for God's sake, shut the fuck up. Like, enough of the screaming. I get it, you're a wackjob. Shut the fuck up. I shouldn't be annoyed by the main protagonist, I should be scared. I wasn't scared at all. I wasn't even disturbed. I wanted to put it on mute.

Bottom Line: Don't waste your time. Seriously. It's not fun, it's not entertaining. It's irritating. Go watch Gone With The Wind in the time it takes you to watch these three snoozefests. For real. It's a much better movie, and it's probably scarier. I am, however, truly interested in hearing from people who actually enjoyed these films. If you watched them and enjoyed them, or want to share your own opinion, leave a comment. I'd love to hear what other folks have to say.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Begotten: The Icky Birth Of The Gods

You gotta love a movie like Begotten, one where the director and those involved don't see fit to release on any conventional form of media, because it's not a "movie," but rather art. I watched it on YouTube, and its still up for anyone interested. From everything I've read, I had to watch it to be a true "student" of the genre, and some have called it one of the most disturbing movies ever made. Needless to say, that piqued my interest, and I watched it throughout the day on my breaks at work. Totally used up all my data on my cellphone, but it was worth it to put this in the "watched" pile.

One of the more disturbing scenes.
Begotten follows the story of the birth of the gods, and the plot follows exactly what you'd expect an incredibly strange student film to follow. The chief god kills himself by disemboweling himself with a razor. We watch him twitch and writhe as the blood pours out, and then "Mother Earth" comes out of him, gets him off, and uses his semen to impregnate herself. She gives birth to man, or the "Son of Earth", and then man is set upon by cannibals, who kill him and Mother Earth and bury them, resulting in growing flowers. The film was surprisingly interesting, description notwithstanding. It was completely silent, other than the background noise, which sound like birds chirping and nature sound for the entire one hour runtime. This was certainly effective, as it left you with an ability to focus on what was going on in each scene, as well as ample time to truly process your "dafuq" feelings. 
These words open the film, preparing (?) us for what lies ahead.

The film was shot entirely in black and white, grainy footage, and it was certainly art. That being said... what a pretentious load of crap. As I've stated earlier, being described as avant garde by someone else is an enormous compliment among the art community. The director, however, has described himself as thus, and what have we learned? That makes him a pretentious douchebag. 

Was the film worthwhile? Sure, every film is worthwhile. Was it entertaining? Sure, absolutely, and I'm glad I watched. But holy shit, the pretentiousness was literally dripping off the screen. I have a feeling everyone involved with this project thought this was the best movie ever made when they were done. And it wasn't, it really wasn't. And it was gross. 

Bottom Line: Yeah, watch it I guess. Maybe you'll feel like you wasted an hour, maybe you won't. I didn't really, or maybe I did. Meh, I dunno. Wasn't a particularly good movie, wasn't a particularly bad movie. It's only an hour, give it a go.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Calvaire: The Answer To An Age-Old Question

I watched Calvaire (The Ordeal) after seeing it on many horror movie lists, and the utter banality of the plot from what I read beforehand made me wonder if it was even worth my time. Some guy gets lost in the woods, and has a strange experience. Uh, ok. So French Deliverance? I went into the movie knowing almost nothing about it, and with fairly low expectations, and I was pretty impressed. I've enjoyed almost every French horror/disturbing movie I've seen recently, and Calvaire was no different.

The French seem to be doing things right with the horror genre lately.
What really struck me the most about this movie was its oddness. It almost had a David Lynch feel, where scenes didn't seem completely coherent, and you feel like they must add something to the plot, but even when its done, you're not really sure that they did. You get the feeling that you're experiencing this man's nightmare, and the setup is so completely innocuous that it could've happened to anyone. Unfortunately for our "hero" Marc, it did happen to him.
Apparently getting your head shaved is fucking hilarious.
Marc goes from being a singer who serenades old folks homes to the victim of a deranged lunatic's scheme to get his wife back, in the strangest way possible. This leads me to what I found to be the most interest takeaway from this movie: I've always wondered, for the longest time, about how songs really work in other languages. Do they rhyme in English, or the language of origin? I've heard foreign songs in the past, and there doesn't seem to be a particular rhyming scheme. However, through all of the songs sung throughout this movie, the rhyme happens in French, not English. So there ya go. Seems like that's just common sense, but I've asked the question to many people over the years, and no one could give me a legit answer. So thanks, Calvaire! And speaking of music, this film utilized its "soundtrack" fantastically. From the soulful melody of Marc's romantic songs to the frenetic piano playing in the skeevy bar, music tied a lot of this movie together.

Jackie Berroyer made the movie for me, I thought he was fantastic as Bartel, the inn-keeper that torments our hero. He played crazy really damn well, and his pairing with Philippe Nahon, who played the leader of the townspeople in this movie and The Butcher in Gaspar Noe's I Stand Alone, was fantastic. They seemed to have some kind of Hatfields and McCoys thing going on, and poor Marc was stuck right in the middle. It was honestly hard to tell who was the crazier of the two, and they were both incredibly entertaining.



The true star of the show in my humble opinion.
Calvaire was a pretty good effort, not my favorite of the French New Wave, but a valid entry into the genre. It was certainly disturbing, and it was very well put together. I'd have appreciated a faster pace, but some directors (like the aforementioned Lynch) like that slow-burn of anticipation, dread, and freakiness. I also would've like to see more of Nahon, but in the end, it probably would've had to take away from Berroyer, and he carried the film for me. So maybe that wasn't a terrible thing.

Bottom Line: Calvaire's definitely worth a watch, especially for fans of the French New Wave horror films. The acting is above par, and the directing is capable. Two thumbs up.