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!

The Dark Future of Justin Cronin’s The Passage

Cover of The PassageI recently finished reading Justin Cronin’s The PassageThis book has garnered quite a bit of attention, and now I can definitely see why. The plot is vampire based, but has the feeling of The Walking Dead, The Strain (also see my previous post), and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Coming in at over 800 pages and covering over a hundred years, this is truly epic vampire fiction. The story starts in modern day United States where scientists are, of course, screwing around and trying to militarize several hardened criminals and one 8-year-old girl. When that doesn’t end particularly well, the story moves ahead to the future where we follow the struggles of Peter Jaxon, a young man who has grown up in a post-apocalyptic world and who finds himself on track to possibly save what’s left of the human race. There is action and adventure, romance, horror, and throughout it all excellent character development.

While Cronin takes his time with the storytelling, he does so with purpose. He builds from the character of Amy, a young girl who has pretty much grown up rough, living in motel rooms with her mother. We are then introduced to Wolgast, the FBI agent who has been procuring test subjects for his supervisor and whose loyalty to his job is seriously tested when one of those subjects turns out to be Amy. After we become invested in these characters and what will happen next to them, Cronin takes us far into the future and introduces us to a new cast of characters, those of one of the last human settlements in existence. The success of getting a reader to reinvest in a whole new set of characters midway through the story is one that has to be applauded. The setting and everything changes, but it works and I was again drawn in by Peter Jaxon and his brother Theo, who work the night watch on the wall surrounding the colony; Michael Fisher, a technical whiz who keeps the lights on, and his sister Sarah, a nurse; Hollis Wilson, the classic good guy; Mausami Patel, who also works the night watch on the wall; Caleb Jones, the younger guy in love with old style high top shoes; and, especially, Alicia Donadio, the lone wolf badass.

Cronin knows just how to hit where it hurts with these characters. At several points happiness seems almost within grasp only to be whisked away, or someone commits an act of bravery only to pay the ultimate price. Figuring out who will live through the various adventures is part of the fun, and it’s one of those books where you hate see someone go down. And, at the center of it all is the mystery of Amy, who and what she is, and what part she will end up playing.

Oh, and there are vampires. Creepy, long-living vampires, who have some major psychological skills when it comes to telepathy torture. Fast, lithe vampires, that are smart enough to figure out traps and make plans. Crafty vampires that travel in pods of three and will case out your position for days in advance before attacking with a vengeance. Strong and hard to kill vampires that require expert marksmanship and amazing luck to outlive. Masses and hordes of vampires almost everywhere — hanging under bridges, hiding in abandoned buildings, creeping through the woods at night. Heartbreaking vampires that always, always return — one last time — to where they lived before they were turned.

Finishing this book definitely made me ready to start the sequel, The Twelve. If you are looking for a lovely, scary book to dig into this Halloween season, this should definitely be on your list!