As Above So Below: Terror and Treasure Hunting

Poster from As Above So BelowFound footage films are pretty much hit or miss at this point. However, I have to say that I was definitely enjoyed As Above So Below. The movie didn’t appear to do too well in the theaters, and was only there for a short time, but I found quite a bit about it to like.

The focus of the film is Scarlett, a treasure hunter type, who is following up on her deceased father’s life’s work – searching for the philosopher’s stone. (Note: If they had marketed this aspect of the film when it came out, I would have headed to the theater for sure!) After finding bits and pieces of clues around the world, she eventually ends up in Paris, where she enlists the help of her estranged friend (lover?) George. George is reluctant at first – still a bit bitter about their last escapade where he was apparently left by her in a Turkish jail – but eventually can’t resist and joins up with her to search for what they hope will be pay dirt in the catacombs of Paris.

NOTE: Beware all ye who proceed further – spoilers await.

Scarlett and George find the final clue to the philosopher stone’s location hidden behind an exhibit in a museum accompanied by the Latin acronym which translates to, “Visit the earth’s interior parts; by rectification you shall find the hidden stone.” They quickly realize that they will need help locating a hidden tunnel, which is supposed to be beneath the grave of the renowned alchemist Nicholas Flamel. They collect a crew of peeps, all equipped with headlamps and cameras. and are led by self-trained guide Papillon on a search for the hidden tunnel.

And things begin to go wrong almost immediately. After climbing through a particularly large stack of femurs, they find themselves right back where they started. Tunnel entrances that Papillon has never seen before appear, as do a piano, a ringing telephone, a burning car and other things that shouldn’t possibly be there, including a former pal of Papillon’s who was thought to have died in the tunnels on a previous adventure. This mysterious addition to the group proceeds to help them find the way out by leading them deeper and deeper.

Scarlett enters a tunnel underneath the inscription "abandon hope all ye who enter here"

Eventually, they find a treasure chamber, and a stone that appears to have the magical capabilities rumored of the philosopher’s stone. But, of course, like all treasure chambers, there is a trap. The way out is closed to them. It is in this room that Scarlett encounters an painting on the wall, which indicates the alchemical principle of “as it is above, so it is below, as it is within, so it is without.” They are forced to continue further into the catacombs, descending ever deeper.

Alchemical image for "as above so below"There are several comparisons to the hellish descent in Dante’s Inferno, and things really begin to get scary when they are forced to enter a small, crawlspace below the inscription, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” On the other side, they encounter a room the mirror image of the one they just left with the same painting reversed and at this point the trip gets even creepier. Demonic creatures lurk in the shadows, people are hurt and killed, horrible secrets from their consciences come back to haunt them, and it becomes increasingly clear that they are progressing through a horrific mirror image of their journey as each cavern they enter is an oppositely oriented duplicate of the ones they previously explored.

The key to the movie is the fact that they must “rectify” themselves in order to find the stone. And, eventually Scarlett catches on to this. I won’t give away the ending, but it is definitely interesting. Between the treasure hunting aspect, alchemy references, Dante, and the catacombs themselves, this was a movie designed to hook me. If you are into the same type of things, you should definitely check this one out!

Book vs. Movie: Horns

People always say you should do the right thing. Well, sometimes there is no right thing. Then you just have to pick the sin you can live with.

Movie poster for HornsA few months ago I wrote a review of Joe Hill’s book, Horns, and after watching the movie decided to go back and make some comparisons. I definitely enjoyed the movie and it sticks fairly closely to the book. It also plants a pretty square focus on the sins that people are living with.

NOTE: A FEW SPOILERS FOR BOTH BOOK AND MOVIE MAY BE PRESENT.

The movie version of Horns starts by going back a little before the blackout night that grants Ig his new horns, and while most of the encounters are pretty similar, there is something a little different about seeing them play out on the screen. Listening to people air their dirty laundry – some of whom are pretty proud of their poor decisions – creates an atmosphere of disgust that is almost depressing in some cases. The confessions by Ig’s parents and the waitress at the diner are especially disturbing. But, in addition to the horns’ side effect of unwanted confessions, the movie plays up Ig’s power of persuasion a bit more. At one point he uses it to get back at the media sharks, who have been following him around ever since he was accused of Merrin’s murder. I liked this change of emphasis. I think that it kind of helps, since Radcliffe plays Ig as a little more likeable than the character in the book – having something that he does that is less than honorable helps even this out a bit.

There were definitely some differences, and a few that did take a little of the magic and humor out of the story. For example, the tree house becomes a stable, real-world affair rather than this kind of secret gift that Ig and Merrin share. It’s still their hideout and special place, but it doesn’t have the otherworldly significance of the book. And, there is no donning of readily available clothes after Ig transforms, which cuts out the “devil in the blue dress” joke, which I thought was incredibly funny. But, there are also some changes that I really, really liked – the use of the snakes, for example. There is a pretty funny exchange between Ig and and Terry regarding his new snake-around-the-neck look, and an incredible snake-as-killer scene.

Daniel Radcliffe in Horns

This movie is long – it clocks at about two hours – but it’s not too long. It uses the time to create a different type of horror/dark fantasy experience. This is fitting, since Hill’s work is itself very different from much of the genre. The main meat of the story remains – the horror of Ig’s loss of control of almost everything in his life and the transformation that this loss wreaks upon him and those around him. If you haven’t watched this movie yet, you should – it’s well worth the time.