Jonathan Curole is from Louisiana. He is currently a graduate student in physics at Indiana University.
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“Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here”
When you grow up in Louisiana, you’re destined to carry a lifelong fascination with stories that play on the supernatural side.
There, you regularly walk by places like the LaLaurie Mansion — now one of Nicolas Cage’s luxury purchases, once the home of a socialite and serial killer. Or the Myrtles’ Plantation, built on a Tunica Indian burial ground and referred to as one of America’s most haunted homes. Then there’s the Destrehan Manor, which you might know as Brad Pitt’s place from Interview with the Vampire. And the stories of the fabled Rougarou (a werewolf-like creature). All of it creates an affinity for supernatural tales in the hearts of young Louisiana children.
What keeps these stories so enticing as an adult are their connection to history and literature. The way that these supernatural tales fit like jigsaw pieces into their historical backgrounds increases their appeal and plausibility. This is why I chose to write about As Above, So Below.
The movie is a found-footage movie from the perspective of an alchemist, Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), searching for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. After surviving a dangerous adventure in Iran, Scarlett arrives in the Catacombs of Paris, the film’s creepy centerpiece. While As Above, So Below is not entirely scientifically accurate, it pulls from historical figures and literature to elaborate on the film’s plot — namely the old “science” of alchemy, which includes such well-known figures as Nicolas Flamel, Albertus Magnus and even Isaac Newton, all of whom studied alchemy for a good portion of their lives.
Scarlett recruits her historian ex-boyfriend, George (Ben Feldman), along with a cameraman and three guides to venture into the Catacombs. As they descend, they struggle with their own individual fears — claustrophobia, drowning, the dark, becoming lost. The first-person perspective is extremely effective at conveying their fears. As the party continues its journey, they begin to encounter even stranger phenomena and wonder if this is the work of their racing minds … or something else.
At this point, As Above, So Below pivots with a connection to Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, mimicking the entrance to hell with the phrase “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.” The party notes that they’re continuing into the Catacombs off the maps — farther down than is physically possible and their fears of everyday anxieties transform into fears of a supernatural unknown. Each member of the party encounters unique horrors pertaining to their “sins,” forcing each member to recall their greatest mistakes in life and face them — akin to the levels of hell Dante envisioned in his poem. What drives Scarlett to seek the Philosopher’s Stone? Will they find it? What trials will they face? Who will survive?
Combining the haunted labyrinth of the Catacombs with classic literature makes As Above, So Below more fun than just another found-footage movie. It’s a deeper embrace of history and literature than many horror films undertake, one that reminds me of — and earns its place beside — treasured tales from my childhood.
For most of his life, Evan Dossey has generally avoided horror films. The genre makes him profoundly uncomfortable. This means he has enormous gaps in his cinematic knowledge. Each year, he asks friends and family which essential horror movies he needs to see in order to fill those gaps and spends the better part of October agonizing over them, tossing and turning over them … and writing about them. This year, he’s sharing the month with those friends and family — letting them offer their own thoughts about the tales that terrify (or perhaps just titillate) them. This is everyone’s No Sleep October.
NO SLEEP OCTOBER 2018
Blue Sunshine — James Ledesma
Spoorloos (The Vanishing) — Andrew Kimmel
The Devil’s Candy — Joshua Hull
FYFF Horror Marathon 2018 — Evan Dossey
The Child’s Play Series — Salem
The Shining (1980) — Dave Gutierrez
Hellroller — Richard Propes
Poltergeist III — Greg Lindberg
Scream — Heather Knight
The Witch — Rick Dossey
The Frankenstein Cycle — Lou Harry
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors — Sam Watermeier
Eastern Horrors — Alex Holmes
Unfriended — Austin Lugar
Freaks (1932) — Alys Caviness-Gober
The Beyond — Nick Rogers
The Dentist — Mitch Ringenberg
The Halloween Franchise — Evan Dossey