Dark August (1976) Poster

(1976)

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7/10
Much Accomplished With A Lean Budget.
rsoonsa17 June 2005
Sal DeVito (J. J. Barry), finished with New York City's problems, and separated from his spouse, has moved to Stowe, Vermont where he maintains his occupation as illustrator, encouraged by a new romantic involvement with local painter and gallery owner Jackie (Carole Shelyne). Unfortunately, soon after his arrival in the Vermont town, Sal kills a young girl who runs in the path of his auto, arousing the animus of her grandfather with whom she lived, who then places a curse upon Sal, as seen when action opens, the camera focused upon the old man's mouth as he utters a lengthy malediction. After Sal and those close to him begin to suffer from a series of mysterious misfortunes, a friend of Jackie's suggests employing a local sorceress, Adrianna (Kim Hunter), to raise the spell, and a confrontation inevitably ensues between the Forces of Good and of Evil. This is the basis for a plot developed skillfully by director Martin Goldman who, alongside the two principal players, is responsible for a script that is cobbled as the film is being shot, resulting in a naturalistic feeling with no lapse of interest to a viewer. A high level of intensity characterizes the acting by the entire cast, with the laurels not unexpectedly going to the accomplished Hunter, who cunningly creates her role as a latter-day shamaness within a mundane setting. Cinematographer Richard E. Brooks offers a wide gamut of techniques, including frequent use of a hand held camera and effective slow tracking, while his creative use of angles and lighting produces a quality akin to cinema verité. Solely filmed on location and with little available funding, a good deal is achieved in an aesthetic sense, although shallow production values are evident in a work wherein the teeming avenues of tourist choked Stowe provide an ironic and surreal background for matters of witchcraft.
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3/10
Tedious vanity project
ofumalow6 November 2020
It comes as no surprise that "Dark August" turns out to be the only movie written by its lead actor...because surely no one else would have cast this guy in a lead role, let alone one where he's frequently shirtless in order to show off a body that really does not cry to be shown off. He plays a very Noo Yawk fella who's left the stressful city for a Vermont small town, only that isn't working out because he accidentally ran over a little girl (she ran out of a field in front of his car), and now the entire town hates him. Worse, the little girl's grandfather may have put some curse on him, which manifests itself in various boring ways here--glimpses of mysterious hooded figures, the hero having seizure-like episodes, etc. But basically very little of interest happens, then the movie just stops.

Despite the modest budget, it's not badly made, with relative polish if no great style. But the script is the kind you can tell is "horror" only because the writer knew that genre was marketable; it doesn't manifest any real knack for or interest in horror, let alone original ideas in that vein. What it's really interested in is providing a vanity showcase for an actor whom it doesn't flatter. J.J. Barry is the type who would have been fine as "Cop #3," "Pushy Neighbor" or some other stock supporting figure, but he is not appealing physically or as a personality; in fact his protagonist comes off as a blowhard, yet the film (and actor) still seem to mistakenly believe we're rooting for him. Not improving things is the heroine, who is an OK actress but has a pinched, beaky face and rather alarmingly bony figure--so of course they both get nude scenes that are presumably meant to be "sexy," and are anything but. Also off-key is the rather cheesy-sounding electronic score, which might have been apt if stereotypical for a sci-fi subject, but is just wrong for this supernatural tale, which needed something less shrill and more unsettling.

Worse movies have gotten distribution (and even been commercially successful), but you can see why this one completely disappeared. It's not technically incompetent, and some of the supporting actors are decent. Yet in terms of the most basic rewards--lead actors you enjoy watching, a plot that goes somewhere, providing any thrills or novelty--it has almost zilch to recommend it.
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8/10
Black magic terror.
HumanoidOfFlesh21 May 2010
I remember reading wonderful review of "Dark August" written by Stephen Thrower in "Nightmare USA" and I wanted to see the film so badly.It finally happened.A young girl is accidentally killed by a car driven by a careless city artist.The girl's grandfather curses the young man.His life is turned into nightmare as he sees a mysterious figure in black."Dark August" is well-made and captivating black magic terror tale set in a small American town.It has its share of gruesome surprises and is surprisingly well-acted.The climax is memorable and horrifying.It's a crying shame that "Dark August" is so criminally obscure.But I live and breathe such obscure horror.8 out of 10.
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3/10
Painfully Slow
I'm no stranger to a slow burn horror film. In fact, I adore them, but there's a difference between a slow burn and a movie where almost nothing happens. For almost its entire runtime, Dark August appears to be building up to something really great an fails to deliver with one of the worst climaxes in film history.

As a concept, Dark August seems to have everything going for it. After accidentally killing a little girl, a middle aged man believes that the little girl's grandfather has put a curse on him and he has to find some way to get the curse reversed.

Every now and then, there will be a slightly unnerving shot of black cloak-clad stalkers peeping at the protagonist from behind a tree or another character will accidentally saw into his own leg because the protagonist is having some kind of a curse-induced dizzy spell, but these moments are few and far between and at about 85 minutes, Dark August feels as if it overstays its welcome.

Despite its narrative issues, Dark August is still pretty well shot with some beautiful images of the countryside and the actors are good, but it's in service of a story that might have needed to spend a little more time in the oven.
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8/10
Quiet and effective downbeat horror
drownnnsoda15 January 2021
"Dark August" follows a New Yorker living in rural Vermont who becomes a small-town pariah after killing a young girl in a car accident. Even worse, the girl's grandfather seems to have set a curse against him, unraveling his life and sending an ominous hooded demon to stalk the woods outside his house.

Released to apparently little fanfare and unearthed by Arrow Video last year in their volume 2 "American Horror Project" Blu-ray box set, "Dark August" is an odd duck. While watching the film, I consistently had the sense that I was watching something that should have been mildly revered amongst genre fans had it received an adequate release. The film, despite its low budget, is slickly made and looks like a professional studio endeavor, at least so far as low-budget horror is concerned.

To some degree, "Dark August" embodies the neo-genre of "folk horror," a signifier that has grown more common in recent years. For a film about witchcraft and the occult, it has a very down-to-earth sensibility, but this also makes the scares feel almost too close to home for comfort. It's a moody and atmospheric affair that has a lot in common (both tonally and stylistically) with its New England-set peer "Let's Scare Jessica to Death," albeit with less narrative nuance. In "Dark August", the audience knows indubitably that supernatural goings-on are at work, and the source is clear from the outset.

The demonic presence that taunts the protagonist appears as a cloaked, faceless figure that meanders through the woods, and the presentation of it is bone-chilling. Director Martin Goldman sets these scenes in pure silence, and uses clever cutting techniques to give the audience the sense that this figure is lurking behind every tree. For extra measure, there are abundant shots of the leafy Vermont hills illuminated at dusk, and the inherent unease of the landscape only magnifies the sense of dread. It's truly the stuff of nightmares.

Acting-wise, the film is also fairly solid, with J. J. Barry and Carolyne Barry (a real-life couple who co-wrote the screenplay) as the leads. Their performances feel grounded, ostensibly helped by their deep involvement in the project. The film's real "star" is Kim Hunter, who appears as a clairvoyant white witch figure who attempts to help the protagonist rid himself of the demonic energy that has been thrust on him; her acting is very naturalistic here, and Hunter never lets the character devolve into archetype, which could easily happen in a film like this.

The only real pitfall for me in "Dark August" was the conclusion, which felt a bit hamfisted and abrupt, but I ultimately think that everything else outweighs this minor shortcoming. For fans of regional, downbeat supernatural horror (bordering more on psychological), I cannot recommend "Dark August" enough. It is a thoughtfully-made effort that manages to evoke a sense of true disquiet--the kind of horror that feels like a bad dream. 8/10.
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2/10
Bad
artpf12 November 2013
A man accidentally runs down a young girl and has a curse placed on him by the girl's father, an occultist.

He goes to a spiritualist for help in fighting the curse.

A boring movie by any stretch.

Lot's of talking. Little action. Uh, guys, isn't this a horror film?

The blond is hot though. Due can't act. and walks around without a shirt.

Don't.

Yer doughy.

The basic problem with this movie is that it goes on and on with nothing really happening.

Nothing scary.

Nothing interesting.
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9/10
A far more effecting horror film than the banal, jump-scare murder marathons of today.
Weirdling_Wolf26 April 2021
Even if you didn't have a fondness for slow-burning 70s occult horror, writer/director Martin Goldman's eerie, paranoid nightmare of satanically simmering hatred, demonic possession, dark-hearted revenge and the quixotic, life-destroying forces of evil has an abundance of ominous set pieces, some fine dramatic performances from a clearly committed cast of sterling actors and the breathtakingly beautiful backdrop of Stowe, Vermont is both a soul and imagination stirring delight!

After moving to the wide-ranging rural splendour of Vermont to begin a new life with his pretty girlfriend Jackie (Carolyne Barry) Sal Devito (J. J Barry) suffers a terrible, doom-auguring road accident which has the most monstrous psychological and spiritual repercussions that very soon warps his waking life into an anxiety-ridden, paranoiac, macabre vision manifesting, reality tormenting nightmare, being unnervingly convinced that the malevolent author of all this torment is the grief-stricken old man McDermott (William Robertson) and with Devito's beleaguered mind reaching breaking point finds he has only one last hope for succour, the white witch Adrianna Putnam (Kim Hunter) who must then place herself in the most dire jeopardy in order to successfully banish this increasingly baleful spirit darkly born of such uncontrollable hatred.

Martin Goldman's undeniably creepy occult melodrama has an authenticity and credibly earnest approach that is far more effecting than the blandly hysterical, jump-scare murder marathons of today. 'Dark August' takes its sweet sinister time, simmering malevolently like all genuinely macabre tales should, the vast open expanses of Vermont only seem to oppressively increase the debilitating sense of existential despair he experiences as his hexing intensifies, these inexorable forces of nature, elephantine in stature and unknowable to man's paltry, narrow thinking finally erupting in a preternatural climax of otherworldly terror! Arrow Video are to be congratulated rescuing yet another previously neglected fright fest, lovingly restoring it for the edification of horror fans who still appreciate quality storytelling, genuine mystery and a little humanity with their blackened cauldron of celluloid grue.
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6/10
A Well Acted, Written, & Directed Slow Boil To Simmer Horror Flick... But Not For Everyone.
Stephen_A_Abell31 March 2021
Greetings and salutations, and welcome to my review of 1976s Dark August.

Before I get into the film review, here are my ratings for the movie.

The story gets 1.5 out of 2: The Direction a 1.25: The Tempo and Flow receive a 1: While the Acting gets 1.25: And my Enjoyment level earns a 1.25 out of 2: Dark August, therefore, receives a total of 6.25 out of 10.

The particular thing I admire about this film is the story. Even though it's primarily a revenge flick, the writers JJ and Carolyne Barry, and Martin Goldman, go the extra mile. The central plot is about a girl killed in a road accident, and her grandfathers quest for revenge. However, good old grandpops doesn't grab his rifle and hunt the man down. No. He lights a black candle and recites an incantation to bring forth an ancient evil to kill the driver. It's here and in additional incantation scenes that the Barry's and Goldman add the extra touch. Believable dialogue for spell-casting. The spells are no lame-ass Hogwarts Latin one-word crap. There are feelings and power in these words. For me, Dark August includes the most genuine spell-casting phraseology put on film.

On the whole, the writers provide the audience with a good storyline and believable and relatable characters. Though, it does suffer from slowness at times. These pausing periods, which aren't too terrible, could have been used to continue to build the characters and story.

Goldman also directed this little treasure of a horror film. He possesses a fine eye for iconic compositional shots. In the opening sequence, he gives the audience a pan of the landscape, and it's magnificent. The sun is setting over mountains on the horizon. Goldman captures a light-leak from the setting sun to the left edge of the screen. As he pans, the light-leak moves correspondingly. The entire scene gave me a pleasant and euphoric feeling. It's delightful when a director plans every shot of the film. There's a particularly eerie shot of a mysterious robed figure as he stands between the trunks of two trees. The image is centre-screen and framed by the forest. Add to this the quirky and discordant music, and Goldman injects a cold chill into you.

I found it a bonus and a plus to my enjoyment that Goldman uses local people in his shots. The townsfolk are most evident in Sal's first mental attack. At the time, he's in the local store. In the background, the people are shopping. And they don't appear to be acting shopping. I particularly enjoyed the two kids messing about. The realisticness of this scene was great.

The only place that Goldman staggers is with the pacing of the storytelling. The slow pace works, for the most part. However, some segments needed a tad more speed. Surprisingly, this is most evident in the second incantation sequence. It's too long. Though I know it needs to be creepy, the scene is exceedingly slow and creates a dragged out feel. Nevertheless, it's eloquently written.

The cast is on their top form also. And, co-writers JJ Barry and Carolyne Barry do surprisingly well in the lead roles. They work splendidly as a couple; their real-life relationship possibly helped to make their scenes more realistic

I completely believed in the evil grandpoppa. William Robertson perfectly executes the evil stare. There's no way I would've messed with him. I'd have packed up and turned tail and ran. Shame his speaking sections don't possess the equivalent power. Luckily for both the film and the audience, the grandfather represents the quiet and brooding type. I'm not too convinced he even voiced the opening incantation as this voice oozes ominousness.

The only gripe with the performances was that of Kim Hunter's. She delivers a quality performance as the witch. Nonetheless, when she starts the end enchantment, she comes across a little flat. Her monotony could be another reason why the scene appeared slow. It's a shame as this is part of the story's conclusion and was required to hold the audience's attention.

Dark August is an odd title and doesn't do the film justice. I say this because there's no mention of the month, and it's not dark. Well, not that dark. There are hints of suicidal thoughts, though these are only slight. More depth to Sal's grief would have been better. After all, he was the cause of the granddaughter's death. You know he's troubled, but I couldn't help feeling that I wanted more.

That said, this is an enjoyable movie if you like slow creepy flicks. There's no gross-out gore. Even though we witness one of the men saw into his leg, we never see the girl get run over, even though we see the scene a few times. The accident happens off-screen.

I would recommend Dark August for every Horror fan, except the gore-hounds. It's rightly worth one sitting, though I will be going back to it in the future. I wouldn't recommend it for newbies either. The slowness may put you off watching other horror flicks, and that would be a shame because there are so many excellent ones out there. No, this one is for the seasoned fans.

Once you've escaped the evil granddad, make your way through the forest and check out my Absolute Horror list to see where this revenge flick ranked in my charts.

Take Care & Stay Well. Get Inoculated.
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7/10
Better than I expected.
maximumkate15 August 2019
A modern yarn about a curse. Less a horror movie than a modern folk tale, I suspect those expecting horror are the ones most disappointed in this.

I was impressed overall with the cinematic competence of this semi-obscure film. Well-cast, well-acted, and well directed, there is also a soundtrack by William S. Fischer which adds a lot - in particular a beautiful piano piece while the local witch assembles a remedy for a child.

Great Vermont scenery, and J.J. Barry is well-cast here as a modern everyman thrown into this bizarre and tragic situation.

The magical ritual herein will be interesting for students of the occult: drawing variously from Christianity (the Lord's Prayer), Qabbalah, bits from Crowley (IAO) and Wicca, along with a fairly extended tarot card sequence are well done.

This is not a great film but it is a good one, if you aren't expecting something to keep you on the edge of your seat. This is just not that kind of story.
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3/10
Unexciting
glenmatisse3 August 2020
Dark August sounds great on paper, but the execution lacks thrills or any sense of pacing. You have a man stalked by visions of hooded cult-like people in the woods and outside his house, but they don't really do much of anything and you never feel like he's in any major danger. Kim Hunter comes in for a day's work and gets to spew out some cheesy expositional dialogue and that's about as exciting as it gets.
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5/10
horror movie contains a scene reminiscent of Robert Altman's movies
lee_eisenberg26 June 2009
Obscure horror flick about a Mikhail Saakashvili lookalike stalked by the grandfather of girl whom he accidentally killed. There's certainly nothing significant about "Dark August", unless we interpret it as a '70s time capsule.* What I mean by a similarity to Robert Altman's movies is that one scene has two groups of people simultaneously carrying on conversations. Of course, I might be the only person who interpreted that. Otherwise, I would never think to equate this movie with Altman's films.

Anyway, this flick is just a way to pass time. Starring J.J. Barry, Carole Shelyne and Kim Hunter.

*In the past month, four 1970s icons have left this life: David Carradine, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.
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