As Above, So Below, 2014.
Directed by John Erick Dowdle.
Starring Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert and Ali Marhyar.
When a team of explorers ventures into the catacombs that lie beneath the streets of Paris, they uncover the dark secret that lies within this city of the dead.
Hunting for cursed treasure is admittedly one of the stupidest quests one can embark on, regardless of if they’re an experienced professional like Lara Croft, or in the case of As Above, So Below, six schmucks that should probably just stick to studying artifacts instead of seeking them out. The one constant in watching brave/stupid people uncover the truth behind urban legends is that they’re usually pretty entertaining. Unfortunately, As Above, So Below didn’t get that memo.
It’s a shame too because the film boasts a pretty awesome locale deep underground in the catacombs of Paris. Everything about the place is dirty and littered with the remains of human bones, providing an interesting and eerie backdrop for the horrors that await our unlucky relic hunters. At one point there’s even a scene where the characters must slither through a crawlspace full of bones and well, it is as nasty as it sounds. Basically, As Above, So Below has a harrowing environment going for it; you genuinely have no idea what’s around the next claustrophobic corridor, and you probably don’t want to know. The fact that the film adopts the seemingly never-ending trend of found footage style recording makes navigation that much more chaotic.
Where the movie fails though is simply getting the audience invested in the characters searching for what lead explorer and college student Scarlett calls the “Philosopher’s Stone”. As the team ventures deeper and deeper into madness, they begin to encounter various hallucinations and otherworldly visions that are meant to psychologically affect something related to each character’s past. In other words, these catacombs are haunted in the same vein as the town of Silent Hill. Here is the difference though, the Silent Hill games – not those god-awful movie adaptations – have a great degree of subtlety, ambience, and a carefully constructed story and protagonist to emotionally wreck by the end of the narrative. This movie just has six generic explorers that you won’t care about,
Furthermore, more often than not it is hard to actually make sense of what you are seeing. It’s a no-brainer that the catacombs of Paris are going to result in a very cluttered screen, but there are times in this movie for all you can see is an extreme close-up of someone’s shirt. The never-ending shakiness of the cinematography only makes things worse.
The killing blow to any and all entertainment to be found in the film is by far just how cliché and formulaic things become during the second half. At some point – it probably can be pinpointed as the time a freaking phone rings in a random corner of the catacombs – As Above, So Below becomes too focused on giving viewers unnecessary jump scares that don’t even make sense. The worst part is that the scenes aren’t even scary and just come across unintentionally hilarious. A perfect example is a scene you definitely have seen if you have watched the trailer, where one character is sucked into a burning car. There is no logic or suspense behind it, just the writers and director in search of something flashy to do.
Despite how ridiculous the story is and how uninteresting the characters are, I didn’t hate the movie completely. As previously mentioned, the look of the film is completely nailed and makes for a horrifying place to be. That is until the movie devolves into a cacophony of crumbling ceilings and not so spooky sounds. As long as your content with watching stupid people do stupid things you’ll obtain a modicum of fun from As Above, So Below. It also has a pretty satisfactory death count with some gruesome smashed in faces, and quite honestly that’s never a bad thing. Especially when you will already be rooting for the characters to die anyway.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. He currently writes for Flickering Myth, We Got This Covered, and Wrestle Enigma. Follow me on Twitter.