Tuesday, 23 February 2016

as above, so below

as above, so below is a film about archaeologist scarlett marlowe (perdita weeks) and her quest to follow in her father's footsteps and discover the fabled philosopher's stone. scarlett's expedition takes her to the catacombs beneath paris but she and her team soon discover that the stone is protected by ancient traps and malevolent forces.

i don't know if it was deliberate but both the dowdle brothers (who also made the excellent poughkeepsie tapes) and perdita weeks appear to be channelling lara croft here, and i don't mean that as a criticism because this is the best tomb raider film ever made. scarlett is a really cool character, with the knowledge and intelligence of sherlock holmes combined with the bravery and recklessness of indiana jones, but what weeks adds that really makes it work is some humanity and vulnerability.

as much as i'm a horror fan my favourite part of this film was the thirty minutes prior to scarlett descending into the catacombs beneath paris. i loved the way the mystery unravelled and how scarlett is so determined to succeed she doesn't mind destroying a few relics in the process. there's an energy to that opening which is perfect and really sets a great tone and pace for the rest of the film. scarlett's relationship with former lover george (ben feldman) works really well too and provides a nice story arc for both characters.

once the team find their way into the catacombs it becomes less tomb raider and more like the descent. there's a fantastically creepy moment with a group of underground cultists and a scene with a preserved templar corpse that could be a direct reference to the ending of indiana jones and the last crusade. there are also some cool scenes where the team have to figure out how to get out of certain rooms, usually by triggering some kind of ancient trap or mechanism. things escalate towards the end with zombie monks and living statues, all of which is handled really well and is suitably creepy as well as frantic and terrifying.

as well as the scares and the tomb raider tribute, there's also an interesting theme being explored here, about dwelling on past traumas and how (possible spoiler) you ultimately end up back where you started. i found the ending a little disappointing because i thought it was heading in a different direction, but then as my brother jack pointed out after we watched it there is something kind of refreshing about an ending with no surprises.

overall, i really loved this film. the dowdle brothers have clearly mastered the found footage format and manage to tell a compelling story with great characters whilst using the format to add a level of realism and kinetic energy that really makes it work.

the found footage blogathon will run throughout february in which time i plan to review as many films as possible and maybe throw in a few extras as well. if you'd like to be involved and post your own content, send me a link via twitter with the tag #foundfootageblogathon. i'll retweet your link and will include it in a summary post at the end of the month. you can find a full list of the films i'll be reviewing here.

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