Archive for the ‘Vault of Extreme Horror’ Category

Der Todesking is the 2nd film by Jorg Buttgereit following his cult hit Nekromantik. Both have the similar violent episodes and graphic ideas, but der Todesking is a much more serious film and doesn’t rely on special effects to get its deep and quite powerful message across.

The film is a series of 7 shorts covering each day of the week and focusing on a different individual. Each short is linked by the theme of suicide or death with the linking tool being a chain letter explaining why death is the only option.

Devoid of pretty much all humour, der Todesking presents a stunning nihilistic view on life and humanity. There’s No one trying to stop these suicides, no one mourning the loss. It’s a stark, realistic portrayal on the subject and one that is unlike pretty much anything else.

Some of the segments are stronger then others but none are bad. Wednesday is especially poignant and powerful as it used no dialogue, no characters and no violence instead it features a suicide bridge and the names of some who have jumped from it. I got the same feeling from it that I got from the documentary ‘the Bridge’ which focused on suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge. To evoke such emotion using little other then names and film of a concert bridge is quite remarkable and it’s a great feat of filmmaking. It would have been easy to just film people jumping off the bridge but instead Buttgereit reigns it back and uses simplicity and minimalism and in doing so creates something remarkable.

Saturday is the other day that stands out as with recent shootings around the world it rings very true. It consists of a woman filming herself shooting people during a concert. No reason for it and no justification, just a shooting. It’s scary because it feels pretty real.

The no justification is a theme that runs through the film and is one of the things that makes it stand out. We as order a want to know why something is happening and not knowing scares us. By presenting the segments in this way Buttgereit has created a far more powerful and far more real film.

Gore is at a minimum here as well which is a surprise considering the visual effects of Nekromantik. The goriest moments are a decomposing body that works s a bridge between days. This decision is another smart one as itdoesnt distract from the deep message the film is conveying.

The soundtrack is fascinating as well as it’s nothing like you’d expect (unless you have seen Nekromantik). It doesn’t always 100% gel but it’s always great. When it does work it just merges with the visuals creating a sensationally strong experience.

All in all der Todesking is a remarkable film that defies genre and really is unlike anything else. I wouldn’t call it a happy film you can pop on, grab the popcorn and enjoy. I’d say it is a film that strikes fast and hard and drives home a powerful and important message about suicide and death. It doesn’t glorify it like most horror films, it doesn’t portray it as good or bad, just a thing that happens.

As an experience I cannot recommend it enough. Yes it is slightly dated in places but it doesn’t really affect the impact. It’s definitely not for everyone. I imagine the audience for it is quite small but I urge any intrigued to watch it. It’s fascinating, powerful and thought provoking filmmaking at it’s best.

*BANG*! Your eyes jolt open, pain coursing through your skull.  It feels like you’ve been punched in the gut, your stomach churning, no matter what you do. You look around. A Woman sits opposite you. In the haze you see her head crack to the side as she too is hit. *BANG* you get hit again, this time harder. *BANG* and again. The Women screams. A man brings out a knife and slashes her across the chest. You close your eyes hoping this is all a dream. *BANG* Your eyes fling open. You’re being forced to watch. The man slowly cuts her again. You can’t believe what you are seeing. You close your eyes again. *BANG*. You sit and watch. after 70 minutes of this. you are untied and freed. You look across to the woman. Her head hangs, chin pressed into her chest. She’s not screaming anymore. Standing you grab the chair to stable yourself. You stagger away from the scene, queezy, legs weak beneath you. With one final look back the image is burnt into your mind. your never going to forget what you’ve seen, what you’ve been through. In the weeks to come, you find you no longer feel anything, you feel like and empty vessel of what you once were. You actively seek something, you don’t know what. Just something to make you feel again. You are left waiting for what may never come. Why did you look back? Why didn’t you just leave? The image of the woman is a scar in your mind. Some scars never fade.

This is the how I felt the first time I watched ‘August Underground’, Fred Vogel’s horror masterpiece.

For those few who have never heard of the film, It sets out to be a sort of home movie of two men joking round, beating people up, torturing and killing. there is no start and there is no end.  (that is ‘August Underground’s’ plot in a nutshell).

Why then am I calling it a masterpiece of horror?

It is because of this simple idea, why the film, in my eyes at least succeeds. It doesn’t waste time building the characters up, we know nothing about these murderers or their victims. We are thrown into the middle of Fred Vogel’s character torturing a lady in the basement of a house. By throwing us straight in, it makes us as an audience instantly question what it is we’re watching. This is the Vogel’s first masterstroke.You’re ultimatley meant to feel like you have just found a random home movie that isn’t professionally edited.

This leads us onto Vogel’s second masterstroke; filming it so badly. Yes, you heard me right. The fact that the movie is so badly framed and shot (most of which I think on purpose), helps add to the found footage vibe the film is going for. Unlike big screen films like ‘Cloverfield’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ where everything happening is always ‘conveniently’ framed, AU doesn’t frame everything. It feels very much like a person filming his mate and just messing round. (like it should be). The way it is filmed led to me actually question if what I was watching was real. It’s filmed on video and a such it looks ba, picture quality-wise and when you then add-on the ‘jolty’ filming, it just looks very real. (well for me it does).

The ‘real’ feeling is further emphasised by the fact that Fred Vogel and his co-star (the person filming) are not very good actors (sorry Fred but you’re not). For this reason I was completely ‘sold’. I never found myself thinking they were acting. it just felt like they were two friends pissing about and just messing people up for fun. (the horrible thing is that with the increased emphasis with camera phones, this has become far more of a reality then it may have seemed when they were making this film.) The characters are just nasty pieces of work (Vogel’s being the worst) who care about nothing other than amusing themselves. You are forced to watch their actions by the one filming and at some points even he seems to begin to think what they are doing isn’t right. It is Vogel’s character that is the one that seems to playing for the camera and striving to show what he can do.

As the film has no real plot it relies on the acts that the characters are performing during the films’ runtime being captivating (or in this case, sickening) You keep watching out of a kind of morbid curiosity that seems to be subconsciously programmed into each and every one of us. (the part that doesn’t want to see anything go wrong during something like a car race but you wonder what it would be like if something were to happen. It’s the same reason people seem obsessed with taking photos when someone gets hurt. There is n reason for the feeling it’s just there.) This film plays on that feeling and manipulates the viewer into watching it, not because they are enjoying it, but because they want to know how much worse it can get. This is where the brilliant special effects come into play. Vogel studied at a film school that specialised in special effects. It shows. While one could say that some of the effects are ‘over the top’ I’d say they aren’t. They aren’t the glossy effects people like Eli Roth relied on when making ‘Hostel’, they are much more grounded and much more gritty.

Everything blends into a film that one really can’t enjoy. You don’t walk away from the film enlightened, more you walk away feeling dirty and unclean not knowing what you’ve just witnessed. I walked away questioning my own mind and why I sat through the film without turning it off. I started questioning my own morbid curiosity and began watching how others reacted to sickening films and situations. More so though it made me forget how to ‘feel’ for a while. It partially desensitized me to pretty much everything, be it good or bad.  This is the first and only film to do this to me.

For creating a film that actually makes you question what you are watching and a film that perfectly captures the feel and extremity that he set out to create, I cannot praise Vogel enough. Clearly knowing the limitations that come with making a film in terms of money and time, Vogel has done something that many directors never end up doing. He’s created a film that has shaken up how horror films are made and has created a film that will be remembered for many years to come (if only because of it’s noteriaty).

Now comes the tricky part. I don’t know if I can recommend this film. Lots of people will hate it, many will say it’s a disgusting piece of filth. (they’d be right) I guess it all comes down to what you want from a film. This is not the sort of film you can easily watch with friends. It’s not the sort of film you can sit and watch for entertainment (unless you are slightly messed up). It’s the sort of film, I guess you’d watch to test your boundaries (like the films, ‘Traces of Death’, ‘Flowers of Flesh and Blood’, ‘Men Behind the Sun’ etc…..) I have seen the film a few times and have never regretted it. If anything I see it as a pivotal turning point in horror films and a breathtaking up yours to censorship. 8.5/10 (I know many would disagree with me but I believe Vogel deserves it for creating something that ultimately makes you question your own mind.)

*interestingly Vogel seems like a really nice chap from all of the interviews I’ve seen him in. He just seems like a fan of films and the sort of bloke you could have a good chat with in the pub.