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The horror found footage film As Above, So Below (2014) received quite a bit of attention two years ago while in theaters, and it’s oft been recommended to me since. I’m a fan of found footage, despite the usual infuriating nature of the genre, so I’d been interested in seeing this for a while. The premise of the film is intriguing, especially considering the set is actually the Catacombs, which also then means that many of the bones and skeletons are probably real. Pretty darn spooky, right? If dusty calcium scares you.

In the end, I can’t say that this is a good horror movie, but I was engaged. The beginning of the film is incredibly slow, however once it picks up it did keep my attention. The main character Scarlett is an academic wizard who thankfully is an expert in… symbology, which I suppose is the justification for how she’s able to interpret the hieroglyphics on the Catacomb walls to mean some pretty absurd things. She rattles off her interpretations in rapid-fire whispers that barely make sense, and the viewer must just accept that she is right because otherwise they’re fucked and the plot must go on, afterall. There is a moment where she attributes the phrase “Abandon hope all ye who enter here” to mythology, and as a massive literature nerd, I cringed pretty hard. I imagine most of what she says is similarly cringe-worthy. But it is a horror movie, so I accepted Scarlett’s rants and hoped for scary imagery.

The movie provided. The Catacombs look amazing, and while I didn’t find the jump scares effective and grew tired of them, the creatures are eerie-looking and the shadows and CGI worked well (meaning it was not particularly excessive). Many of the scenes are framed nicely and the overall aesthetics and appearance of everything works. I would say this is the strongest aspect of the whole movie—the visuals and setting.

As-Above-So-Below

Someone’s family, once

Eventually I began to believe the movie was self-aware and purposefully loading itself up with tropes for sheer amusement. This is not art. Some of the scenes are so ridiculous that they are laughable. A particular scene features Scarlett essentially getting a star in Mario and going back through the tunnels they just spent 45 minutes of film time traveling through, then Mario-starring it back again.

Also, the film doesn’t really try to make the camera situation make sense. Some may find this irritating.  Many found footage films attempt to explain where the footage is coming from, how they were able to get certain angles and shots, but that doesn’t really happen here in a convincing manner. I wasn’t really bothered much by this, as in the end the whole premise is ridiculous and I just wanted to see spooky things.

If you want your movies to make sense, then this isn’t really the film for you. There’s a long list of nonsensical, bad moments in this movie. But if you enjoy found footage irregardless and want to see a horror film shot in an interesting setting with some cool scenes, then this will surely entertain you—enough.

 

 

I have my mother’s chin and cheekbones—my dad’s eyes and pomposity. I need to worry about diabetes, as it runs on both sides of my family. My mother’s side of the family is riddled with mental illness, and so I have inherited that load. My mother modeled depression and anxiety for me, and from her I learned the art of worrying without cease. As I watched my dad’s bitterness develop, I inherited that as well, though I channeled it through different venues.

My grandmother—my mother’s mother—modeled the same things for my mother and her sisters and brothers. My dad is too insecure to reveal the source of his bitterness, but I imagine he learned that from somewhere as well. Maybe it was merely the fact of growing up in a poor rust-belt community, working hard at a mindless job for little pay, that did him in. I am an expert now, on bitterness, and often it emanates from me. Although I’m not having children, I speak with children daily and sometimes I find myself instructing them with the best intentions, but with advice stemming from deep-rooted acidity.

The sadness and grievances experienced by our parents do not stop with them. We inherit their problems, their poverty, their fears, their beliefs, their sadness. These things move, like a cancerous mass, through the generations. These things don’t dissipate through time. Inequality works this way as well, “a cultural force, insinuating itself into family life and classrooms and replicating across generations.” The effects of inequality are sometimes not seen until the following generation. One of the things that impressed upon me in Toni Morrison’s work was how she showed that while slavery ended, the effects of slavery did not, and that trauma is passed down.

A Swedish study shows that children with parents who are experiencing depression score lower grades in school. Grades are not the be all end all, but this does show an effect on focus and motivation, factors involving stress. The data shows an impression on a social, academic and professional life venue. I certainly remember sitting on my stairs at the age of sixteen, my mother laying motionless in bed several rooms away, refusing to speak with me. I didn’t quite understand what she was going through then, but I certainly do now. But that is the thing, here—I didn’t understand, yet the experience diffused through my developing character.

I just wish a few more words had been spoken, from some source, to help nurture an understanding. Perhaps certain things would have been different for me, if only slightly. Perhaps I could have more to give now, to those I speak to and influence.

It’s very easy to be silent and cover up the issues involving our inherited grief. But, as with most things, attention and acceptance and the brutal power of honesty can help ease the burden of what moves through every family. What have we inherited? What problems do we pass on? What can possibly be helped, alleviated, soothed?

What can we do, about this sadness that moves through our families’ generations?

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