Saturday, August 30, 2014

Post Mortem: As Above, So Below

     This is a strange twist from the standard film industry when it comes to found film footage, in that nobody finds this footage. The people actually survive and get to tell their tale. Of course there are a few deaths along the way, which is what makes horror movies stand out, but you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Now this review will contain some spoilers, so stop reading from here if you don't want it ruined.
     If you're still with me I guess you really value my opinion. The fact is this is a fresh idea, with a new plot, original characters and heavy symbolism that relies on references to history on numerous occasions. Scarlett, and archaeologist, starts the film off by infiltrating Iran to see some caves that are about to be blasted apart, in the hopes of finding something that can help her with her fathers research. She finds it and narrowly escapes, the inscriptions she was looking for on a large bull statue behind hidden behind a wall.
     Next we find her going to Paris, France where she needs a translator who knows Aramaic. This introduces us to George, who Scarlett on a previous expedition left in a Turkish prison in her attempts to flee. He holds this against her, as any man should, and reluctantly agrees to translate the text for her.
     The text is the symbol alphabet of Alchemy, once studied by the famous Nicholas Flamel, who supposedly discovered the secret to the Philosophers Stone. His grave, which would not be in downtown Paris, was looted nearly four hundred years ago, only to find his body missing. The mystery continues...
     They come in contact with a man who can navigate the catacombs beneath Paris, as they are certain Flamel left his stone there. They promise half of any treasure found and off they go. It's here we are introduced to the "team", Papillion, Souxie and Zed. They bring climbing gear, water and extra batteries for their head lamps.
     And so they descend.
     Things are creepy enough with millions of bones lining the walls, but subplot of a sallow skinned girl comes into play when they find her, after bumping into her at the bar where Papillion was, chanting in a dead language amidst the dead with several other followers. The chanting echoes long through the tunnels, and serves as sort of an elevator music for the first half of the movie.
     This is where the first mistake was made, I believe. They never made anything of this strange little ritual meeting that was taking place. It seemed to have potential... but they left it alone. Ah well...
     They reach a tunnel where they either go through a blocked off haunted way, or they climb through a narrow gap towards a section of tunnels that will guide them around the haunted tunnels.
     They choose the sane way, crawling along on their bellies through piles of femurs, only to come to the same exact room, and the tunnel collapsing behind them. Now they have to go through the haunted chambers.
     They prove to play on those present and their histories to torture them. George, for example, had a younger brother that drowned in a cave. They start seeing him in places. Scarlett's father hung himself and they start finding nooses hanging in odd locations. A phone rings in the tunnels. and when answered, a deep voice begins speaking in French, refusing to reveal who he is. They find the chamber and, since they are going off the writings of Flamel from his own gravestone, dive into some water and travel to a secret room, where an incorruptible Flamel lies atop a slab next to piles of gold, and a wall covered in Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Scarlett reads them over and low and behold, she picks the Philosophers stone out of the wall.
     A trap goes off and there is a cave in, killing Souxie and another, leaving only the camera man (Benji), Papillion, Zed and George, along with Scarlett.
     The rest of the movie is a mix of symbols representing the traumas that each person had faced in their lives, and the fires of Hell consuming them if they don't face their fears head on. There are a few jump scares where creatures from the walls emerge and gnaw into George's neck, and some unfamiliar woman throws Benji to his death down a well they are all going down. The flash of her face was so quick, that it could have been the sallow skinned woman, but I'll never know.
     Eventually, Scarlett runs back and returns the Philosophers Stone and absorbs its powers, allowing her to heal George. They run and take a leap of faith down another well, landing at the bottom of a doorless room. In a desperate bid for freedom the three survivors scratch at the walls and floor until they uncover a manhole covering. 
     Pulling on it doesn't work, so they push it, amazed that it pushes down ward, revealing the streets of Paris, just upside down. They quickly clamber out and the film goes back to an earlier interview where Scarlett denies being a treasure hunter.
     "I only seek the truth," she states.
     Now as this film was shot in a unique way (among the countless found footage films), I have to say they did a good job with what they had. No real monster, save towards the end where they see the wall creatures and a disturbing man dressed in robes that is never fully explained, is used in this film. Claustrophobia and suspense were the tools that drove this movie along, with the wailing noises, the strange women chanting, the telephone and the discovery that the Philosophers Stone was real being the key features of this movie, it all adds up to a watchable film.
     Go out and support this movie. You deserve a good scare and they deserve the support.
     Sweet Dreams...

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