I have a few confessions to make. First off, while characters in As Above, So Below rambled on about the Philosopher’s Stone and Nicholas Flamel, my mind continuously circled back to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Secondly, I went into As Above, So Below with very low expectations, based solely on the found-footage style of the film and the dissatisfying trailers. And my final confession… I rather enjoyed As Above, So Below. I know, I know. It’s a found-footage horror movie with a 31% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. How dare I give it a positive review? Well, because it is important that I am always honest in my reviews, and honestly, I found this movie to be quite good.
Taking place within the catacombs beneath Paris, As Above, So Below follows in the footsteps of any clichéd found-footage horror movie by having its main character as an adventurous renegade. Scarlett (the adventurous renegade of our movie) just wants to know the truth. She’s a sort of personal MythBuster. Early in the film, Scarlett discovers the possibility of there being hidden treasure somewhere within the catacombs. Also, the Philosopher’s Stone may be there too. So, down she goes, her and her team, in search for the treasure. The movie gets realer as the tunnels get deeper and Scarlett realizes they may have just sealed their fate. Memories begin to haunt them. Entrances begin to seal up. The Gates of Hell appear. They must learn if it is true that “the only way out is down.”
The found-footage format is getting tired, but it seems like it’s going to be sticking around for a while, so I guess we just have to deal with what we’re given. It sucks, but it is what it is. It isn’t necessary, but during As Above, So Below it didn’t bother me as much as it does in some movies. The movie sets up the idea that they are filming for information, and I can buy into someone taking a camera down into the crypts and crevices of the Paris underworld. I am by no means praising the camerawork or saying that the found-footage is in top form here, but I am saying it isn’t entirely nerve-racking.
Surprisingly enough, the performances aren’t even nerve-racking, which is pretty much expected in a film like this one. They aren’t all that great by any means, but they’re far from being as terrible as one would expect. Everyone seems to be committed to his/her role and it was very refreshing. The script that they’re working with isn’t really all that bad either. The team of treasure hunters encounters numerous scenarios that only exist because of their own stupidity, but if you can forgive that, you may just find yourself sort-of caring. As the catacombs get deeper and the team continues to descend, there are a few times when the intensity is tangible.
Director John Erick Dowdle does a fairly nice job at directing this movie, not bringing anything particularly new to the table but still knocking out the task of pushing a claustrophobic atmosphere. He’s done this before, too, with movies like Quarantine (the American remake of REC) as well as Devil, which so many people mistakenly assume M. Night Shyamalan directed. Not perfect films by any means, but decent ones, especially Devil, which I was quite fond of. I myself am claustrophobic and while watching As Above, So Below, I felt a bit uneasy. It’s not perfect directing, but I can’t go without complimenting him on that.
I’ll admit that the beginning of the movie was just so-so. It’s a scene in the underground with separate characters that really doesn’t do much to kick off the plot or even give us an understanding of what is going on. Really, it was shakily filmed (duh) and confusing. And as I said in the intro, whenever Scarlett talked about the Philosopher’s Stone and Nicholas Flamel, all the nerd inside of me thought of was J.K. Rowling’s take on Flamel’s alchemistical history. That’s just who am I, guys. The movie has other problems as well, so don’t think I’m calling it one of the year’s best films. It has a load of characters that exist only for the purpose of being killed off, which every horror movie seems to include.
But as they descend the layers of the earth and encounter personal demons and mysterious occurrences, the movie gets good. It’s like a lower quality version The Descent. The catacombs of Paris are a perfect set for a horror movie, and the movie nails the creepiness. The final twenty minutes or so is the scariest bit, with some creepy and creative imagery not usually seen in a found-footage horror movie. I found the conclusion of the movie to be very cool, and it’s a bit of a mind-trip just thinking about it. Oh, and don’t let me forget to mention the sound. The use of sound in the final act of the film is fantastic. It was so low key and effective, it sounded as if there was someone breathing right beside me. Not a great film, but in the middle of monotonous found-footage flicks, this one is a bit of fun.
As Above, So Below (2014) 93 mins Rated R for bloody violence/terror, and language throughout Cast: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman Written by Drew Dowdle and John Erick Dowdle Directed by John Erick Dowdle
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