Friday, September 5, 2014

Nicholas Flamel and the Horrific Hunt for the Philospher's Stone

Who knew I would get so much Harry Potter chatter in a found footage, cave hopping horror movie?!  Well, I guess the Boy Who Lived is never actually brought up, but I was waiting for it the entire time I was watching As Above, So Below, the latest in shaky cam terror.  

Scarlet (get it, she has red hair) is an alchemy major, and she is desperately looking for Nicholas Flamel's grave so she can find the Philosopher's Stone.  Yes, that Philosopher's Stone, but more on that later.  

Scarlet will stop at nothing to find the stone, and I mean nothing.  At one point, she takes a stone slab off a museum wall and sets the back on fire to find a map.  She's like a scrappy Robert Langdon with better hair.  Well, nicer hair.  I guess the moral of this story is that symbologists don't really think about hair product.  She discovers that it might be located in the catacombs beneath Paris, so, naturally, she pleads with a her reluctant ex-boyfriend, George, to go with her.  They track down an expert of the catacombs (Is this brag-worthy?  I think not...) named Papillon and they venture down below.  

Early on, Papillon points out an archway where one of his friends disappeared, and he tells Scarlet and her team that they can't go this particular direction.  Surprise!  They end up having to take this route when the cave collapses, leaving them with no alternative.  As Above uses relatable things to creep you out: the dark, tight spaces, etc.  There is a scene where Scarlet's cameraman gets stuck between a tight wall and a collection of human bones.  The camera stays tight on his face, and it's enough to make you shift uncomfortably in your chair or make you realize you're not breathing.  

The further they go under Paris, the creepier things get.  It seems the catacombs can prey on your worst fears and make you see things that pertain to your own life (a dusty, ringing telephone makes an unexpected appearance).  When the group literally reaches the doorway of hell, however, As Above pretty much falls apart.  Claustrophobia and fear of the unknown is replaced by cheap hooded figures (the devil?) and monstrous stone statues springing to life with the assistance of crappy CGI.  By the time Scarlet has to retrace her steps to a previous room, you will call As Above out on its bogus boogeymen.  The ending is a tad frustrating as well (I'm sorry, but it's not "found footage" horror when someone still has the footage to present to another person...if you get my drift...).  It turns into a slight redemption tale when all I really wanted was to be scared.  

Yes, it's understood that Nicholas Flamel was a real person, and he was believed to have been an alchemist who discovered the Philosopher's Stone.  This particular item has been featured in a lot of popular culture, but probably most prominently in J.K. Rowling's first successful novel, Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone.  When we meet Scarlet in As Above, we almost imagine her (or other characters) making a joking reference to the wildly successful series, but it never comes.  It's actually distracting.

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