As Above So Below- A glowing review

I had pretty high expectations for As Above So Below. The subject matter/plot is totally interesting to me, so I was going to be freakin’ upset if this movie let me down. Before you get your hopes up extremely high, I will admit this isn’t some “perfect” movie. We nerds love to nit-pick at things, including stuff we love. And I could do the same for this film, but dammit, I don’t want to. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie, and I hope you do (did?) too.  Maybe you were reluctant to watch this because you scoffed and decided it was just another in a long line of “Found-Footage” horror movies. I don’t blame you there, there have been some really gawd awful movies in that style, just rudely chucked out to us like so much shark chum. However, I don’t think this movie falls into that category. This isn’t just some hastily thrown together story, I didn’t feel at least. This one has a deliberate story line. Maybe you’ve heard the synopsis. A young archaeologist and her “team” go on an expedition to the catacombs under Paris to find…treasure. She’s specifically looking for something that was her father’s life’s work, and is now her own. Okay, fine, I’ll tell you. It’s the philosopher’s stone. We know from the trailer that they find themselves in some sort of hell where demons from their past are there to haunt them. But what you may not realize is that said archaeologist (“Scarlett”)  is a fairly rad character. She’s a little obsessed with her quest, but girlfriend has her reasons. I really liked her. She’s brilliant, persistent, again a tad obsessive, brave, pretty, and has neat looking jewelry. I respect all those things. This entire story has a bit of an action-adventure vibe ala Indiana Jones. The opening scene sets the tone for that. Her team is a fun little troupe. They include Benji, who is conveniently shooting a documentary of her quest, hence how we are watching the tale unfold. Then there is George a “friend” of hers who’s a pretty adventurous and smart cookie himself. Then we have the three French people. Papillon (just don’t call him a tour guide), Souxie, and Zed. Pap and his gang are experts on navigating the catacombs and agree to “guide” the rest in return for a share of the treasure said to be with the stone. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hate any characters in this movie. I’m not saying that each one was amazing, but I wasn’t actively rooting for any one of them to die, which is unusual. But the deaths were generally pretty good. I want to talk spoilers for those of us who’ve watched it. So, you may want to bow out here if I’ve peaked your curiosity enough to see it for yourself. And I hope you do see it if you had doubts at first. None of my horror watching friends have disliked As Above So Below (AASB?? Good) Did I mention it has shades of “The Descent”?? Cause…it does. And who doesn’t like that movie??  Anyway, I think if nothing else, you will be pleasantly surprised that AASB has more substance than you may have thought at first. Now, the rest of us are going into the spoiler catacombs below….

 

 

********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Now entering spoiler hell.

 

 

 

 

 

So I love all the groovy, groovy stuff about magic, occultism, alchemy, Nicolas Flamel, and the philosopher’s stone. I will admit to not being an expert on any of those things, but I have a major interest in them and find them fascinating. I promise the part about liking the philosopher’s stone is not ONLY due to Harry Potter. I also think it’s great subject matter for a movie, it hasn’t been done to death for starters. Also, I am not militantly anti-remake, but I am always jazzed to see something “original” if you will that is not a remake. I liked the whole romance between Scarlett and George. It wasn’t too cheesy, it just fit well without being too forced. How about the Death Eaters who live in hell?? Those guys were something else, no? One even had a little ornate chair to sit in. Granted, it doesn’t look super ergo, but I guess this means Satan does take care of his employees to an extent. Or, how about those stone creatures? I wish there was more of them. I loved when Scarlett got violent with one too. Actually, that whole part of her being a bad ass to return the stone was fun. As I said before, I could knit-pick AASB. Analyze each choice the character made. But I don’t want to, because I had a really had a good time watching this movie. And having fun and enjoying the ride is  more important than scrutinizing details for me. Maybe I wasn’t always that way, but I am now, dammit. Anyway, I also need someone else to think the choir and the singing little church group down there was horrifying. Nay, traumatizing. That has to be real, right? Cults of people down there singing and praising in full body makeup and what not? I do believe in freedom of religion, so I think they should have at it if that is what works for them. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t freaky to the non-believers. The tension during the scene with them singing and Benjii being stuck and having a panic attack on top of Mount Femur was a high point for me. I really thought he was goner right there and then. Speaking of which, I was really surprised that we had three survivors at the end of this thing. Nice that the lil couple of lovebirds made it. And Zed too! I didn’t see Zed making it out. So to that I say, you go Zed. Way to be. You proved some of us wrong with how well you can survive a day trip to hell. Now go be a father already.

Greystone Park: Looks like Downton Abbey in Hell

Greystone-Park-poster

Perhaps the title there is a bit misleading. Nothing about this movie is really at all like the fantastic BBC show. However, the building itself looks like Downton Abbey. Well, maybe only a little. I think what I’m trying to say is it’s a big, sprawling, old building.  Oh! It’s also a real place. A former real-life psychiatric hospital, just as the movie tells us. Now that I cleared that up, let’s press on. This is low budget type of movie I found at times both fun and atrocious. I mean that as a compliment because I was really entertained by this little film. Allow me to introduce Sean Stone. Sean stars in, directs, and co-wrote this film along with fellow writer/star Alex Wraith. Sean looks like Maroon 5’s Adam Levine if didn’t have that emaciated thing going on. Oh, he also happens to be the son of acclaimed director Oliver Stone. His dear ole mum and dad even have small roles in the film. The third lead character is a girl named Antonella. All the leads use both their IRL names as their character names too, which is convenient for our purposes today. But, it also makes things kind of fun in a real/not real, could-this-be-based-on-actual-events territory. Sean seems like the level headed type, I daresay even a bit boring. Alex is impulsive, scattered and a smidgen cray-cray. Antonella is obsessed with Medusa. She also has a tendency to swing back and forth in various scenes from talking a big game about going into an abandoned mental hospital, and then freaking the fuck out in others and constantly repeat silly phrases such as, ” I have to leave here, I can’t be in THIS room any more!” Forgive the paraphrasing. So what are these kids doing here? The three are making a documentary of sorts about the titular location, Greystone Park. Now in ruins, it once was a mental hospital known for using extreme methods (electroshock therapy, etc) on their patients. There was an infamous client there called Billy Lasher who could still be hanging around in an un-dead sense. In fact, the whole place is reportedly haunted and has a way of messing with the minds of those who go exploring within the building.

So this movie has one of those opening sequences that always remind me of music videos. Kind of flashy, jumpy, cut scenes, all black and white creepy images, you get the idea. So, imagine my surprise when the pacing of the thing suddenly slowed down to a crawl. Everyone knows I enjoy a good slow-burner, but this was getting silly. When I was really feeling the drag, stuff got interesting. There starts to be subtle little clues in the background of shots, I love that kind of thing. And then Alex is acting more crazy. Not just reckless, but obsessive.

Let me digress from one moment to talk about an issue dear to my heart. I happen to be doll collector. And I love a creepy doll. We get some good doll spooky-ness here. Future film makers, please don’t over use the doll tactic. At the point of abuse you run the risk of alienating the doll collecting community. That is all.

At the climax of this movie, things take a turn for the  better. The characters are just spiraling into madness, and it’s great fun to watch. The scary stuff is cranking up and getting more interesting. And then, there is THAT scene. It is somewhat random, and not eluded to or explained, but I freakin’ loved it. After the break below I will go into some detail for those who don’t mind a spoiler.

To recap, this movie is a little rough. It has that look and feel of a beginning filmmaker(s). But that isn’t a bad thing. Everybody has to start somewhere. And these early movies can be kind of fearless. I couldn’t help but root for it. And even though it had it’s low points (some cliche dialogue and characters, oddly slow pacing here and there), it also had good things going for it. I didn’t shut it off after 20 minutes so that means I was entertained.

This goat is not metal. But he is fabulous and relevant to this movie. Kinda.

This goat is not metal. But he is fabulous and relevant to this movie. Kinda.

Spoiler: I wanna chat about that scene in the movie that got me all juiced. In case you couldn’t tell, it’s the scene in the church room. The boys are looking at what they think is Antonella dancing all hippy-ish at the front of the pulpit. The boys exchange some funny dialogue full of self referential humor, which was great. The ruined church has turned into this super creepy black, Santanic-seeming mass. There are these goat-masked/puppet things set up around the pulpit as if addressing their congregation of demons and just being scary while she dances about for them all grotesquely! When Sean gets brave enough to try to approach and lure Antonella out, the dancer turns around to reveal she’s not Antonella at all! Well, if she is she’s some kind of evil demon albino version of herself. Nothing leading up to this point seemed to indicate a Satanic black mass was eminent. It was random. But that means it was unexpected. Plus it was twisted and fun.