The ingredients of this film are delicious. An archaeologist searching for the philosopher’s stone, a trek underground into the catacombs of Paris, the documentary feel thanks to the “found footage” filming method, and a cast of characters I was rooting for – unusual for me when it comes to horror movies.
The scares take a while to come along but the journey is worth it. We start with Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) in Iran, chasing down a lead from her dead father into a system of caves about to be blown up. She knocks through a wall and finds a statue probably unseen by human eyes for thousands of years, photographs the inscriptions and manages, in the nick of time, to escape with her life.
The drawings lead her to Paris where she tracks down her old pal George (Ben Feldman) who’s handy when it comes to translating ancient languages. With his help, Scarlett is certain the philosopher’s stone is hidden in a secret part of the catacombs no one has set foot in in hundreds of years.
As Above, So Below is mix of Indiana Jones, The Descent, The DaVinci Code and found footage films of the horror variety, not a bad combination. Like The Descent, this film effectively captures the claustrophobia of the tight caverns and the suffocating atmosphere that comes from being deep underground. When one of the crew actually gets stuck attempting to crawl through a narrow space, I watched with my stomach clenched, feeling his panic as if it was my own.
As the horror elements kick in, and Scarlett and her fellow explorers run into one hellish thing after another, I couldn’t help but think of a haunted house of horrors you’d find in a carnival. I was right there with them, huddled against the wall, afraid to look around the next corner. The references to Dante’s Inferno gave me chills. As Above, So Below got me Googling “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” For the most part, this was a decent film. Some of the scary stuff at the end was unnecessary and felt forced, but didn’t take away from the creepy setting and the overall ominous atmosphere.
One major plus: The film crew actually got permission to shoot in the catacombs. It’s not a set.
I had a quick look on YouTube at the trailer, thinking I’d post it here, but nope. Please, please do not watch the trailer. It shows the whole story. Arg. This modern thing of trailers revealing every twist and turn is a pet peeve of mine. Does anyone remember the days when a trailer was about 10 seconds long, simply an intriguing teaser? Okay, I’m taking a deep breath now before the vein in my head pops. Here’s a short clip instead.
Overall, As Above, So Below is very enjoyable. Hopefully I’ve persuaded some of you to check it out?