American Horror Project vol. 2: Dark August (1976)

This is something I’ve never seen before: Vermont rural horror. Directed by Martin Goldman, who also directed The Legend of CENSORED Charley after a career in advertising, it has strange art house leanings and long takes like a French film. It also has an incredibly unlikeable lead, but hey, it was the 1970’s. For being the “Me Decade,” it doesn’t feel like anyone liked themselves or anyone else.

Sal (J.J. Barry, who also co-wrote the film along with Goldman and lead actress Carole Shelyne) is in the midst of a divorce and a resulting mid-life crisis, which has brought him to Vermont. He sets up a photography business, starts building a studio and hooks up with an artist named Jackie (Shelyne, who also appeared as Carolyne Barry), who has been through a divorce herself.

It was all going so well — until Sal runs over the granddaughter of Old Man McDermitt, who just so happens to have the powers of the occult at his command. Whoops.

From then on, Sal feels even more out of place than ever before. His body is constantly giving out on him, he’s having visions of a hooded demon and everyone around him is getting maimed. One of his friend’s girlfriends tries some tarot reading, but that just upsets him even further. Even consulting the town’s foremost witch — Academy Award-winning Kim Hunter, getting top billing for her short screen time — can’t stop fate, particularly when Old Man McDermitt busts in with his shotgun.

Much of this film’s running time is devoted to being a stranger in a strange town. Long pauses, worried glances and even moments of weakness all add up to an overwhelming feeling of dread.

If you enjoy movies where things happen slowly and then everything just ends, good news. Dark August is for you. Actually, there’s plenty to like here and you can see how a lesser director would make this into a Blumhouse movie of the month that would end up pissing me off. Here, it just intrigues me and I end up spending all day doing more research on this film.

This disc also contains an appreciation by Stephen Thrower, commentary and interview with Martin Goldman, an interview with producer Marianne Kanter and an exploration of the history of Vermont horror from comic book artist and film historian Stephen R. Bissette that’s worth the price of the box set.

You can learn more about the American Horror Project vol. 2 box set on Arrow Video‘s web site. This is one block of blu rays worth owning, trust me.

DISCLAIMER: Arrow sent us this set for review, but we were already planning on buying it. That had no bearing on our review.

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