As Above, So Below (2014): A Macabre Review.

As Above, So BelowStarring Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge

Directed by John Erick Dowdle

Hello once again. After some consideration as to what I should review next, I thought maybe it’s time I delved back into the world of found footage.  But I didn’t want to review any old FF flick that I came across, which is why I chose As Above, So Below. Though I almost never trust trailers, the trailer for this particular flick did grab my attention, and so it made sense to me to take the plunge and see what came of it.  As Above, So Below is directed by John Erick Dowdle, who was involved in the making of such horror films as Quarantine, Quarantine 2 (as a writer), and Devil. With those movies under his bet, my optimism was somewhat raised.  Add to that the fact that the majority of the film was actually filmed in the Paris catacombs (which was apparently a first for any film crew) and it became a must watch for me.  But enough delay, let’s get into it.

Scarlett Marlowe has a dream.  A dream brought on by the tales told to her by her father: to find the fabled Philosopher’s Stone.  So a couple of PHDs and other achievements later, Scarlett is as close as she’s ever gotten to finding a possible location for the stone. With her trusty cameraman Benji by her side, Scarlett begins recruiting people for help. She begins with George, a guy whose help she enlisted once before, which resulted in his spending some time in a Turkish prison.  After reluctantly agreeing to help, they then recruit Papillon, a man who has had experience exploring the Paris catacombs.  Papillon, made to believe that there is treasure hidden in the catacombs, also recruits a few of his people to assist, and they make their way into the darkness.

As Above, So Below

Even in Hell, there is no escape from telemarketers.

Nowadays when I watch a found footage style horror, I tend to ask myself if it actually needed to be filmed in said found footage style.  In the case of As Above, So Below, I would have to say yes. Given that it’s filmed in the Paris catacombs, there would have to be issues with straightforward movie filming, particularly the lack of space in much of the location. So I can forgive the style used in this case. Unfortunately, As Above, So Below falls victim to the downside of the filming style: excessively shaky cameras, cameras not working at various times when bad things are happening, and a shit ton of cheap jump scares.

The acting was very well done, which was quite pleasant. The problem is, I didn’t feel any particular connection to any of the characters, save for maybe the character of Scarlett.  That may be because she is the only character with any real development and background given to us. I admit though that I did feel for George, who flat-out didn’t want anything to do with Scarlett after their previous “adventure”. Papillon’s crew were more or less just there, and with maybe one exception are just there to up the body count.  All that said, I didn’t really dislike any of the characters, and as I previously mentioned, the actors did a very good job in their roles. I just would have been happy to see a little extra time given to get to know most of the characters a little more.

As Above, So Below

If horror movies have taught me anything (and they have), it’s that anyone sitting with their back to you rarely have good intentions.

The biggest thing going for the film is between the creativity of the story and the special effects.  The premise that the secret passageway in the catacombs leads to a doorway to Hell (not really that much of a spoiler, so calm down) is very well done, going with more of a Dante’s Inferno version of Hell than the traditional fire and brimstone version. Adding to that, because the group is in Hell, plenty of things happen to screw with their heads; bad things relating to their past. Makeup and blood effects were well done, and didn’t really go overboard with the gore, keeping things realistic.  The effects are a nice mixture of practical and CGI, including walls with people trapped inside the stone, a pretty cool scene with a flaming car that was shown in the trailer that ended in a way that reminded me of Poltergeist, and many others. Thing is, it’s been a very long time since I’ve read Dante’s Inferno, so I can’t tell how much of what is seen was taken from the book.

So, while it has its shortcomings, As Above, So Below makes up for those shortcomings with a great concept, great acting and great effects. It’s one of the better found footage flicks out there, and is definitely worth checking out. Until next time, rest in peace.

Macabre Rating: 4 out of 5 tombstones

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