Sunday, September 7, 2014

'As Above So Below' Review

Ahhh, the mysteries of alchemy, the French catacombs, and the dark night of the soul; all of these things are explored in this found footage film. 

I thought that I was going in to watch another "Grave Encounters" rip off. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with a movie that journeys into the darkness of the human psyche, and uncovers the very personal demons that lie within our very souls.

Overall, "As Above So Below" is a smart, well written horror film. It's very clear to me that whomever was involved in writing the script did their homework. The details surrounding the unobtainable, albeit mythical, Philosopher's Stone; and what it is like traveling through the Parisian Catacombs,  are impeccable.

What really impressed me though, is that the movie is an allegory based on the classic story, "The Inferno" by Dante Alighieri. I have long been a fan of Dante's Inferno. It's a great epic poem, with a ton of gore and horrific images that would make any splatterpunk movie proud.

The movie's sophisticated mirroring of Dante's descent into hell, with that of the adventurers trip down into the bowels of the catacombs is brilliant. I was so impressed with it, I totally geeked out about it the minute I stepped out of the theater. Yes. I am a literature nerd. Deal with it.

Guilt, redemption, and resolution are common themes in "As Above So Below."

I'd tell you more, but that would spoil the movie for you. Look for posts in the future to find out what scenes were inspired by Dante, which ones were taken from images directly in the epic poem, and what all of that mystical alchemical symbolism really means. 

Overall the pacing and character development is fantastic.

Finally! A found footage film that doesn't revolve around a group of jerks that are mean to each other for no good reason whatsoever. (I'm looking at you "Area 407." Dammit Charlie!)

Everything that happens in this movie, happens for a reason. Every plot point is tightly woven together; ensnaring the characters into a situation that is impossible to escape from. They are forced to face not just their greatest fears, but their darkest deeds as well.

The main character, Scarlett (played by Perdita Weeks),  is smart, witty, and fully capable of handling herself when confronted with the threat of physical violence. Oh yeah. She has a black belt in Krav Magra.

Scarlett is like Lara Croft, in that she is a sophisticated British professor that is exceptionally well educated, and obsessed with finding a mythical artifact that her father pursued relentlessly, but never managed to find himself.

All of the characters that she pulls into her little adventure to find the Philosopher's Stone are just as well rounded and three dimensional as she is. And that is a good thing.

"As Above So Below" is one of the best written found footage films I have ever seen. I'm quite impressed with it. 

"As Above So Below" is a haunting, chilling ride that is layered with such vivid symbolism, that it will take you days to unravel it all. And I love it!

Even better, "As Above So Below" only had one jump scare! ONE! It happens during the first sequence of the film, so they got it out of the way, and just kept right on going.

What really surprised me is that the place that it occurs in, makes total sense. Imagine that. Using a loud noise during a scene that requires it.... huh. If only the rest of the horror movie industry could capitalize on such a unique idea... Don't hold your breath on that one guys.

My only complaint is that this movie should've come with a warning label:
Caution, people who suffer from motion sickness should not watch this. Watch at your own risk, and take a barf bag with you into the theater. 

With the advances in handheld video cameras, why is it that found footage movies are still made from the POV of the one person that can't manage to keep his hands still for the life of him? If the POV character is supposed to be a professional camera man (i.e. for a documentary or newscast) wouldn't they know how to hold a camera steady to adjust for that sort of thing? And what about those new fandangled video machines, with their fancy video motion steadying apps that come pre-installed? Do they not exist in found footage land?

Here's a thought:
Why not just use a GO PRO with a chest harness? It would be hands-free, and still be first person POV, albeit without the jerky movements, or the vomitron-esque effect of whirling about quickly from one person to another, as though the dude with the camera is literally spinning in circles in order to get the reaction shots of the people in the scene.

No more cameras attached to heads, or in the hands of the worst cameramen in the business. Please! 

I go movies to enjoy them, not to be submitted fast whirling visuals that cause intense motion sickness in the viewer. When it gets to the point where I have to close my eyes during the film, and sit there for a few minutes and try to will myself not to throw up, there's a problem with your movie. I honestly thought that I was going to have to run to the restroom at one point, it was that bad.

Thankfully, once they switched from just using a handheld camera to the personal cameras on their headlamps, most of that went away; otherwise I probably wouldn't have been able to watch the ending. And that would've made me sad, because it's really, really good.

All in all, "As Above So Below" is a great found footage film. When the shaky cam is the only complaint I have about a movie, it has to be good. I didn't find it scary per say, but it did have some pretty intense suspenseful moments in it that some people might find terrifying for them to watch. However, if you're like me and suffer from motion sickness, be sure to take some Dramamine before you go to watch the film. You'll be glad that you did.

Overall, I highly recommend it. If you like "Full Metal Alchemist" or "Tomb Raider," you'll love "As Above So Below."

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