As Above, So Below (2014) – movie review

As Above, So Below (2014)

Directed and written by John Erick Dowdle

Perdita Weeks
Ben Feldman
Edwin Hodge

I have to admit I have some claustrophobia concerning tight closed-in spaces. I was at one time plagued by nightmares where I was crawling through a tight, dirt tunnel and the tunnel ahead kept getting smaller and tighter until I could barely move. In this film there’s a scene where the character, Ben, gets stuck in one such tunnel and the more he struggles, the more the tunnel collapses on him. You can see the desperation and panic in his face and in his actions. This scene was so well done it was as above so below - posterexcruciating for me. I squirmed in my seat and cringed. I screamed at him to remove his belt to free himself.

Let’s back up a little. As Above, So Below is a Found Footage film with a bit of a twist, there are survivors in the end, which was a nice difference. It looked pretty grim at times and I didn’t think anyone would actually survive. The film concerns an urban archaeologist, Scarlet, who is desperate to solve a riddle concerning Aramaic texts that hold some alchemist’s secret of life. Scarlet takes increasingly risky chances following a trail of clues. It seems her father had committed suicide after trying to solve the same riddle and she has vowed to solve the problem in his name.

The trail leads her and a small crew, choreographer, Ben, and love interest, George, to the catacombs of France. She hires an outlaw guide and his crew with the promise of hidden treasure in a secret room as yet undiscovered by modern archaeologists. They follow a jigsaw of ancient maps and texts deeper into the earth, eventually leading them to a pathway marked ‘the gates of hell.’ (Those who enter, abandoned all hope). A collapse behind them forces the crew forward and some strange apparitions and occurrences plague them. There are some mighty chilling scenes here, enjoyable for a horror fan like me. In fact the scares were so well paced and executed that I was smiling in between the scenes. Aside from the paranormal chills, there were also the real life horrors of being in underground caves; the confined spaces, the feeling of being lost, the paranoia of the surroundings, and underwater tunnels (gasp), all portrayed for maximum effectiveness.

While the ending was not as satisfying as I would have liked, I enjoyed the journey immensely. The characters were quite likable and empathetic. I look forward to seeing more from director, John Erick Dowdle, who has previously written and/or directed great horror flicks like, Quarantine, Devil, and The Poughkeepsie Tapes. While some may be turned off by the Found Footage style I think it serves this film well.

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A well-paced and interesting horror found footage film that dishes out many original chills and thrills, with both psychological horror and physical horror aspects combined. 

I give it 4.1 creepy quagmires out of 5 on the crawling through claustrophobic catacombs capers.

Fun facts

The term ‘as above so below’ is part of Hermatic theory and philosophy. It states that, As in heaven, so on earth – meaning if you think good thoughts, good will follow, if you think bad thoughts, evil will follow. Whatever we think or accept will be the circumstances of our lives.

The hexagram symbol in the movie is used by Satanists and black witches to both, call a demon forward or to keep it at bay. In other instances it is symbolic to create balance in life.

The Catacombs of Paris is an underground grave site which contains the remains of approximately Six Million people, many of which were relocated from existing Parisian cemeteries at the time it was conceived (1782). Underground mines which were no longer used for their original purpose became the housing for the overcrowded Paris cemeteries. The head of the Paris Mine inspection service in 1810 took it upon himself to make the mere housing of the bones into a mausoleum of sorts, stacking skulls and bones in a way that was artistic in some senses. He also used old artifacts and fountains from the original cemeteries to make it a visitable burial place.

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Chemical Wedding (2009) – Movie Review

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Ccrowley 2hemical Wedding (2009)
aka: Crowley (US release)

Crowley is an interesting film written by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. It merges alchemy, sci-fi, occultism, fantasy and horror elements into a thought-provoking tale of dark magic. Dickinson’s knowledge of the occult legend, Aleister Crowley, and his knowledge of the art of alchemy, become the catalysts for this twisted storyline.  It has the feel and look of perhaps an old Hammer Film crossed with the bizarreness of the 1980’s Gordon/Yuzna films. While it is not scary in the horror sense, it is intriguing as a perverse spectacle and character study of the real Crowley.

Aleister Crowley, by way of a quantum physics VR computer at Cambridge University, forces his way back from the dead to take over the physical body of the quiet Professor Haddo (Simon Callow). He now has three days to perform the ‘chemical wedding’ ritual and cement himself in the world of the here-and-now. As he prepares for this ritual he also indulges in an array of extreme perversions including (amongst many); urinating on his college students during a big university lecture and initiating a massive orgy at one off-campus group meeting. Lia, a young reporter for the university newspaper, is always on the prowl for a good story and thinks she has found the big one with Professor Haddo’s sudden onset of strange behavior. Along with Dr. Joshua Mathers, one of the co-inventors of the VR machine, they set out to discover what has taken over Professor Haddo and inevitably work together to try and stop Crowley. They struggle to halt the madman from completing his ritual but they are always one step behind. As it turns out, Lia is a much more important aspect to the ritual than they would ever fathom.

Through this movie we get a glimpse into the mind and provocative beliefs of the real Aleister Crowley, including his strange interpretations of the Catholic Bible and his views on resurrection. He was dubbed with the title of “the wickedest man in the world,” and often referred to himself as “The Beast”. The occultist who’s conflicts with the Catholic Church and even L. Ron Hubbard brought him international attention during his life, passed away in the 1940’s. He vowed to his followers that he would return.

The Music Connection: In the mid 1970’s Crowley ’s Mansion was purchased by Jimmy Page leading to rumors that Led Zeppelin dabbled in witchcraft. Ozzy Osbourne’s premier solo CD, Blizzard of Ozz, included the legendary song Mr. Crowley. There was a photo of Aleister Crowley included in the montage of the Beatles, Sgt. Peppers album (back row, 2nd from left). A solo Cd from Iron Maiden vocalist, Bruce Dickinson titled, The Chemical Wedding was a concept album exploring the possibilities and legends of alchemy.

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