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Underground: Twenty Questions with Fred Vogel - Director of August Underground and August Underground's Mordum
Conducted in early October, 2005
Interview Conducted By: Matthew Dean Hill

Fred Vogel is one disturbingly creative dude. In a recent interview I conducted with J.T. Petty, J.T. said of Fred Vogel, "[He's] probably going to have a sizable effect on American horror." I couldn't agree more! If you've seen any of Vogel's highly controversial and disturbing films, this fact is as clear as can be. Fred recently agreed to submit to an interview with Atrocities Cinema.com. This interview will be a bit of a departure for me, stylistically...I decided to go the "20 questions" route, mostly due to two factors: first, Fred Vogel just gets busier and busier these days, and second, I felt the rapid-fire technique would prove interesting, and would bring about more open, naturalistic responses from Fred. "Naturalistic" is what Fred's all about, as you'll see from his responses to these twenty questions.

Atrocities Cinema: Give me some background, aside from the "official blurb", about Toetag Pictures.

Fred Vogel: We are a horror production company located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our main objective is to create horror any way we can, if it's making movies, doing special make-up effects, music videos, etc. We want to spread the sickness through the underground and up to the masses of mainstream horror. Toetag Pictures is a way of life; we eat, sleep, and shit horror every day, but after it's all said and done we are just a bunch of horror fans who are lucky enough that we can do this horror filmmaking as a job.

Atrocities Cinema: How did your passion for real horror movies come into being?

Fred Vogel: When I first saw James Whale's Frankenstein, it was like being struck by lightning...no pun intended. All I knew from that point on was that I wanted to make monsters. All through life, when other kids were trying to find out what they wanted to do with their lives, I always knew that I was going to make horror in some way, shape, or form. I was really into special effects make-up and thought if I got good at FX it would help me as a horror director. I love all kinds of film; horror is just my favorite genre. I never will leave my genre. I think it shows in the passion behind our work.

Atrocities Cinema: We're dying to know...what does "August Underground" mean?

Fred Vogel: The working title of August Underground was "Peter", but it was too similar to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. So, we lost "Peter" and August Underground was born. We were shooting in the month of August, and it was an underground film so, "August Underground". I remember when I started to tell people about the movie, most of them would say that the title is no good and if anyone picks the movie up for distribution, they are going to make you change it to something more catchy.

Atrocities Cinema: What was the original inspiration for the August Underground series?

Fred Vogel: I wanted to make a big-budget zombie film, and I knew if I made a good enough first film, I could get money to make my zombie film. I was tired of all the serial killer movies that didn't show you what's really going on. The serial killer genre was a perfect way to go. We had no money, but we had the gore. I was teaching at the time, and was at the top of my game with FX, and knew I could make something that people would notice. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer's "home invasion" scene always freaked me out. So, just imagining a feature of that went through my mind, but, five times more real. Really show the viewer what these people are like, not like how Hollywood shows us...cool, clean, pretty. August Underground had to be immature, dirty, ugly, and of course real.

Atrocities Cinema: When did you become an instructor at the Tom Savini Makeup School, and how did that come about?

Fred Vogel: I had just graduated from college (the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, PA) in 1998. At my graduation, I was picked along with two other guys to interview for a teaching job. This was not what I wanted, but it was a job. I wanted to go out to L.A. and work with KNB doing FX. The thing was, I was 23, going to have a steady job, making good money; L.A. was a long shot, so I took the safe route. I got the job teaching 3-D art and sculpture. Two years later, the school started the Savini program.

Atrocities Cinema: What's your favorite type of brownie mix (the "feces" in your films)?

Fred Vogel: Definitely Duncan Hines!

Atrocities Cinema: If you could only watch one horror movie on a continuous loop for the rest of time, what horror movie would it be?

Fred Vogel: [James Whale's] Frankenstein...no question about it!

Atrocities Cinema: In your commentary for August Underground, you talked a bit about your Catholic upbringing. What effect, if any, did that upbringing have on you creatively?

Fred Vogel: I haven't been to church in over 15 years. My Grandmother went to this church that had the most amazing artwork I've ever seen. I used to go with her just to check out the paintings. Once I got old enough to understand what they were talking about, I found out that I wasn't interested in this at all. I still love the artwork. I just would rather watch a horror movie on Sunday morning than take my ass to church. I just hope I get a "get out of hell free card" for making my movies.

Atrocities Cinema: How do your friends and family feel about your...ahem...choice of subject matter as a filmmaker?

Fred Vogel: My friends and family always knew that I had a thing for movies, especially horror. It wasn't a shock to them...until I showed them the movies and now no one speaks to me...kidding...they are all very supportive. My mother is my biggest fan, and she hasn't seen any of my movies all the way through.

Atrocities Cinema: If you had to pick, who would be your biggest influence in terms of your "style" as a filmmaker?

Fred Vogel: I don't believe a filmmaker should have only one style. Each one of my movies has its own style. The only thing that is the same is that the violence is realistic and vicious...nothing campy.

Atrocities Cinema: Aside from the film mentioned in the "continuous loop" question, what are some of your favorite horror films, and why?

Fred Vogel: 1. Black Christmas - still freaks me out to this day
2. Texas Chain Saw Massacre - even though there's not much blood this flick still gets under my skin
3. Last House on Dead End Street - this is a movie with fucking balls
4. Maniac - a great date flick!
5. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer - besides August Underground, it's my favorite serial killer movie

Atrocities Cinema: Here's the easy one...what are some of your least favorite horror films, and why?

Fred Vogel: This is not an easy question. I don't care for most of the horror coming out today. Most of the remakes shouldn't have been made, and PG-13 should never go before a horror movie, but that's my opinion. There have been a select few that impressed me. I like my horror mean and nasty. So, if the film doesn't have balls, it's on my "least favorite" list.

Atrocities Cinema: Where do you think the future of horror cinema is headed?

Fred Vogel: Right now, horror is big again, and still riding high. It's a shame that it's all garbage. There are some real horror films creeping through the shadows like Haute Tension, The Devil's Rejects, Murder Set Pieces, and Saw. So, there is hope for mainstream horror. As for Toetag Pictures, we plan to keep on making real horror for the underground. We have been "spreading the sickness" in the horror genre for a few years now...it's even spread up to the mainstream. The future looks good for horror cinema.

Atrocities Cinema: By the time you retire, is there one "pet project" that you feel you absolutely must get in the can?

Fred Vogel: My dream project is to make a movie about Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster.

Atrocities Cinema: How often do people assume that you and your character/s in August Underground and August Underground's Mordum are one and the same?

Fred Vogel: All the time! Lots of people think that I am the crazy big guy from the AU movies. People need to realize that it's a movie! I always get asked to show the tattoo I get on my leg in August Underground. I'll show them that I don't have a tattoo on my leg...it's a movie! I'm just playing a character. I do horror conventions and fans sometimes are intimidated to come up and ask me a question. I guess when your movie comes off as very realistic, people may be easily persuaded to believe that my character and myself are one and the same.

Atrocities Cinema: Tell me a bit about your recent arrest in Canada.

Fred Vogel: We were on the way up to the Rue Morgue Festival of Fear in Toronto, when we were stopped by customs for bringing merchandise into Canada. We thought that all we needed to do was get a permit to sell the merchandise in Canada. The next thing I know, they start taking all of our stuff out of the van. It was very surreal watching all our shit being taken away on dollies. Twenty minutes later, two of Canada's finest came out to arrest me for bringing obscene materials into Canada! I spent ten hours in a customs jail while they confiscated my movies and sent them up to Ottowa for further observation. I was let go, and charges were dropped...thank god! Toetag and I made it up to the show a little late. Better late than never!

Atrocities Cinema: Is "PG-13" a dirty word to you?

Fred Vogel: Fuck yes! How dare you!

Atrocities Cinema: Are you ever worried about social backlash and/or asshole "copycat" killers using your films as proverbial "fuel" for their sicko deeds?

Fred Vogel: This March, my cousin Andrew, who was 22, was murdered by some lunatic. He was stabbed thirteen times and his throat was cut. The first thing that went through my mind was, "did some sick fuck see my movies?" In all my movies, I show violence how it really is, and try not to glamorize it.

Atrocities Cinema: Have you ever had anyone (girls or guys) proposition you on the sole basis of your involvement with your films? In other words, have these films gotten you laid?

Fred Vogel: No, I don't think they are the kind of movies that get you laid! I guess smearing fake shit all over a chick doesn't go as far as it used to!

Atrocities Cinema: Finally, what words of advice do you have for up-and-coming filmmakers?

Fred Vogel: Making movies is not easy. Some advice would be always try to get people who believe in your project, because one bad asshole spoils the bunch. Try to use good looking fake blood because it can make or break your project. Last but not least, believe in yourself, and you can do anything!

Atrocities Cinema: Thanks a lot, Fred! Best of luck to you and to Toetag Pictures! Keep us posted on your next film, Redsin Tower!

More interviews to come soon...

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