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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

As Above, So Below (2014)

This is a movie that was recommended to me repeatedly and I kept avoiding it. I thought it looked like another of those found footage movies that was nothing but a series of jump scares where everyone dies at the end. I finally relented and checked it out last night. I have to say I was very surprised at what I got.

Scarlett is an urban archaeologist who is following in her father’s footsteps as she too searches for the Philosopher’s stone that had eluded him. The movie opens with her racing against an Iranian demolition team to find a clue before they bring down a cave system. This establishes her as a risk taker as well as someone who is a bit obsessed and might use questionable judgement.

The rest of the movie is set in the catacombs under Paris. The clues she found in Iran have led her to the vast tunnels filled with the former inhabitants of the city. Somewhere beneath the city is the stone, which itself is the key to unlocking all sorts of alchemical powers. Soon she has recruited a guide, an old friend, and a cameraman to join her in the dangerous labyrinth of passages. As they go deeper and deeper looking for the stone it becomes clear they are in trouble. They experience all sorts of spooky and weird stuff such as mysterious chanting, figures skulking around following them and a damn telephone that appears out of nowhere. Something is definitely not right.

This is not at all the movie that I was expecting. First up it has a real Indiana Jones vibe to it as Scarlett and her friend George have to figure out puzzles to unlock hidden doors and translate long dead languages like Aramaic to sort out riddles. That last bit is very important to the ending of the movie where I think that Scarlett realizes something which turns out to be key in them possibly escaping the underground hell they find themselves in. That also brings me to another cool twist. Please be aware that SPOILERS are coming.

Creepy stuff going down!
At some point it seems that the movie is hinting that they are actually in Hell! That wasn’t terribly interesting to me, especially since they seem to be hitting the audience over the head with that idea. But then the story suddenly changes up into some sort of test that when Scarlett solves it they are allowed to leave. This is tied into the Philosopher’s stone, which I think is not so much a physical object as it is a power gained thru enlightenment maybe. I’m honestly not sure but found myself fascinated by the resolution of the story and what it hints at. I also think it is brilliant that the filmmakers take you most of the way to the resolution but leave enough of it vague that you have to fill in the blanks yourself.

Even more creepy stuff!
Please understand that if you were hoping for creepy atmosphere, shaky camera, and jump scares typical of the found footage genre you won’t be disappointed with As Above So Below. It has all the things that one can expect from a movie in this subgenre of horror. What makes this one so cool is the great story which you hardly ever see in found footage flicks. We even get a few on camera bits of violence and gore with at least one head being smashed on camera! The locations of the underground catacombs and the cramped tunnels give the entire movie a claustrophobic feeling that also goes a long way to setting the atmosphere and giving the audience an emotional gut punch on more than a couple occasions. Seriously this movie has it all.

I can’t think of a bad thing to say about this one. With that in mind I’m going to enthusiastically recommend As Above So Below. I promise you that you haven’t seen anything quite like this one.

© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

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