Exploring Movies – As Above, So Below

Perpetually on the hunt for creative inspirations, I have been scouring Netflix for any movie which appears to be remotely influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. In my search, I recently came across a movie that I had not seen in previous searches, As Above, So Below. As always, I took a chance and I was not disappointed!

Scarlett, a young alchemy scholar, is searching for the fabled philosopher’s stone, which is reported to be a legendary artifact capable of turning base metals into gold and granting eternal life. The movie begins with Scarlett finding the Rose Key, in essence, the Rosetta stone for this mystery, in Iran. She returns to Paris and is being followed by a documentarian who’s excited to capture her adventures. She then partners up with her ex-boyfriend, George, another eccentric in his own right. These three then join forces with several urban explorers who are willing to take them down into the bowels of the Paris Catacombs. The further they travel underground, eerie and unexplainable events continue to happen. Repeating tunnel segments, a mysterious telephone ringing, finding a group of cultists chanting, and so much more. Scarlet’s academic prowess and George’s ability to read Aramaic leads the group to a treasure chamber where the fabled stone is found. Retrieving the stone triggers a trap that nearly kills the group. Each person in the expedition is mentally challenged by reliving a traumatic experience from their past. Eventually, Scarlet, through a series of unfortunate accidents and mishaps finds her crew of six reduced to three. Eventually finding their escape…

I found the movie to be exciting and it easily held my interest and imagination from beginning to end. It had the right mix of “gotcha you” moments at all the crucial points that kept the tension growing until the end of the movie. The producers did hit on a variety of classic Lovecraftian tropes such as cultists, a lingering sense of doom, and reliving traumatic mental experiences. The latter is an important plot device and really makes the movie.

This movie sent my mind into planning mode even before the credits started rolling! I have previously run a game that took players into the Paris Catacombs, but that was in a French Revolution setting (Reigh of Terror). If I were to create a Call of Cthulhu scenario based on this movie, I would almost certainly do it in the modern era. It would be fun to tie the old with the new. If I were to use the movie as inspiration for other horror games such as Dread or Ten Candles, I would again keep it in the modern age, but I would likely ramp up the terror and impending doom more so than I would in a Call of Cthulhu game.

All-in-all, this is one movie you should probably put on your Netflix watch list!

~ Modoc

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