Published on September 3rd, 2014 | by Chris Scott0
As Above, So Below Review
Summary: As above, so don't watch it.
Where once the idea of seeing horror play out on faked video footage presented as a documentary of sorts was novel, now such presentation is the norm. And there is little denying that because of this found footage horror films have grown incredibly stale. After all, there are only so many paranormal investigations and exorcisms that horror fans can be subjected to before the narrative becomes rote. Because of this, I’ve begun to shy away from watching many of them unless something catches my eye as interesting and different.
As Above, So Below has been marketed as a horrific excursion through the catacombs under Paris into the actual gates of Hell. Being as I’ve always assumed (after three torturous years of French class in high school) that the gates of Hell were under Paris, this premise immediately piqued my interest. And while the film does see our cast of documentary filmmakers/adventurers descend into the Paris catacombs and into the gates of Hell, the foundation it is built on is even more intriguing.
Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) is an archeologist continuing the life’s work of her departed father, searching for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. The stone is said to be able to turn any base metal into gold or silver, while also curing illness, and possibly even being the key to immortality. Silly? Sure, but no more so than the exploration for other such fabled items of magic. After an interesting opening that sees Scarlet exploring caves in Iran, her quest leads her to Paris and the grave of Nicolas Flamel, who legend says actually accomplished the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone. She enlists the help of an old flame to help her decipher the inscriptions, which all point to a hidden chamber somewhere in the catacombs.
It is amongst the bones of the 6 million that lie beneath Paris that the film begins to unravel as events begin to happen that make no logical sense. And I don’t mean illogical in the sense that supernatural occurrences are influencing things, because that is to be expected in a film like this. For example, at one point a cop appears out of thin air and tackles one of the exploration crew, forcing them to retreat into the tunnels trapping one of the members that wasn’t going to go on the expedition. Except the cop came from the light side of the tunnel, where someone would have seen or heard him coming from. Then another person tosses a smoke canister to mask their way but at the same time stranding the tackled member out with the cop, only to have said member miraculously appear like Houdini. All of this acts as an elaborate device used to keep Scarlett’s old flame with the group.
The film desperately wants you to feel something for these characters but never actually tries to develop them beyond the simplistic personas that were quickly ascribed to all of them. So when the film attempt to tie simplistic character traits into a more meaningful horror later, it falls flat. Even worse, the film seems to lose its cohesion as it attempts to mix in traditional horror deaths for some characters against horrific events that are made to reflect on the past histories of other characters. Because of this, the final 20-30 minutes of the film becomes a convoluted and tiring series of events, albeit with a few solid jump scares packed in, that fails to capitalize on any good will the film may have built up before.
The film seems to misunderstand that the most interesting thing about it isn’t the characters, their histories that we don’t really know (or care) about, or the nightmarish experience they go through at the end. It is the search for the Stone and the exploration of the catacombs that makes it all intriguing. It misses the chance to build on those aspects, instead falling on the old standby of evil in the dark and ultimately it suffers for it. And, like so many of its found footage brethren before it, As Above, So Below is a film of wasted potential that also wastes its viewers time.