As Above, So Below

They really need to clean up Paris.
"The only way out is down."

Too true guys, too true. So welcome back to a new week of The Tagline! Today it's going to be some more horror, as I dip back into that much maligned genre, the found footage horror movie. Today's offering is As Above, So Below, a film about a group of people who descend into the catacombs beneath Paris in search of the Philosopher's Stone. As we all know from watching the first Harry Potter movie, The Philosopher's Stone was the end goal of all alchemy, and it was rumored that Nicholas Flamel succeeded in its creation, achieving immortality along with his wife. For anyone sort of curious, Flamel's reputation as an alchemist was extremely posthumous. He lived in the late 14th and early 15th century, and accounts of his alchemy legend originate more than 200 years later. At any rate, in this movie he really IS an alchemist, and the main character, a woman named Scarlet, finds evidence in Iran of where the philosopher's stone might be. Why is there something in Iran written in Aramaic that tells the location of Nicholas Flamel's Philosopher's Stone? I have no idea, but it did so yeah, Scarlet follows this evidence to Paris. There she realizes that the evidence points to a secret chamber somewhere beneath Paris, deep in the catacombs that crisscross the city's below. While attempting to determine the location of this chamber, a mysterious individual suggests they consult with an amateur catacomb delver named Papillon, and then disappears of course. Papillon and his hipster friends lead Scarlet, her documentary camera guy, and her reluctant ex-boyfriend into the necropolis, Where shit promptly starts to get weird.

When I hear burning and think I'm in hell, I don't investigate.
For starters, when there are weird ladies in robes singing spooky hymns in red candlelight, I take that as a sign to just go back up and call it a day. I guess that's just me though. Not that invested in finding magic rocks under the earth. I'm more concerned with not being trapped in tunnels made out of human bones beneath the earth, alone with my worst nightmares. Undeterred by good sense, reasonable fears, or any of that other shit, the group continues on, and eventually find that the tunnels are not as Papillon remembers them, and the group is forced into a tunnel that looks a lot like one that Papillon said no one has ever come back out of. As you might have guessed, shit takes a predictably bad turn after that, tunnels start collapsing, people fall down holes, and eventually they find themselves staring down a tunnel with an inscription that matches the one over the gates of hell in Dante's Inferno. Do they go through it? Why OF COURSE THEY FUCKING DO WHY NOT RIGHT WHAT COULD HAPPEN.

Best advice of the whole movie, don't follow this woman.
A few things about this movie. If you hate found footage stuff, as a form (and I totally wouldn't blame you for being sick of it) then don't bother with this film. It is not going to dissuade you of your prejudices if you loathe the very form itself. That being said, this is definitely a not contrived usage of the form (it is after all an expedition for ostensibly anthropological purposes, and so bears filming) and the camera never feels intrusive. Early on the cameraman installs networked cameras on everyone's head lamps, so that the issue of how we are seeing everything never needs to be addressed again. We aren't left wondering why in the name of common sense they are still bothering to film as they fight for their life (I'm looking at you Hud, you piece of garbage). Also the movie resorts to a general minimum of jump out horror, with most of the fear coming from the fact that you are riding along with a bunch of people who are lost in claustrophobic tunnels, and are possibly in literal hell. While Scarlet manages to be persistently reckless and generally causes most of the danger by being a dope, this is an avowed characteristic of hers from the start, so it doesn't come as some surprise. In general this movie has an interesting premise and kept me engaged throughout. It kept me feeling anxious right until the end, and I honestly didn't know how things were going to turn out. 

What about this led you to believe you WOULDN'T be
crawling over mounds of human bones?
Definitely worth noting is that, the movie looks so authentic because it was actually shot in the catacombs beneath Paris. This was the first movie that got permission to do that, and it definitely adds gravity and realism to the film. I imagine a lot of the fear and panic was easy to generate for the actors, because they were actually underground beyond cellphone reception and without electricity. Just whatever equipment they brought down with them. If that seems scary then... I mean I think that's a pretty reasonable fear. Reviews for this movie were not nice, but I expect that for any movie that's found footage. If you want critics to loathe you, basically just make a found footage movie. It's easy mode for wanting to fail.

That's all for today gang! Join me again on Thursday for turtles possibly. Turtles? Could be.

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