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Review: As Above, So Below

As Above, So Below
08.29.2014
5 10

PLOT: In search of a sacred stone, an archeologist and fellow explores find themselves deep inside the catacombs below Paris. The further down they go, they soon realize that they may have gone through a door that is leading them to their darkest fears.

REVIEW: In the latest “found footage” flick from the Dowdle Brothers, the sub-genre is treated to a few supernatural nods and what may possibly be the gates of hell. Many of the clichés of this sub-genre are in full effect, yet there is a fascinating idea buried deep within the Paris catacombs. AS ABOVE, SO BELOW features your typical group of men and women wielding cameras, but this time the results are a little more bloody with some serious demonic mojo working its way through this “city of the dead.” With a ton of creepy sound effects, and one of the more interesting set-pieces for this kind of flick, does AS ABOVE rise above what you’d expect?

We are first introduced to Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), a young and supposedly very bright archaeologist/historian searching for something called the “Philosopher’s Stone” – maybe Harry Potter could have helped. We get a sense that she is very much like her deceased father – another obsessed explorer – because she risks her life sneaking into Iran to help find a map of sorts for this historical jewel. Soon, we find her discoveries have led her to Paris where she enlists the aid of a translator named George (Ben Feldman), her cameraman Benji (Edwin Hodge) and some French “guides” including a mysterious fellow known as Papillion (Francois Civil). With the help of a secret map discovered in a museum, they decide to go underneath the city of Paris into the catacombs that lay home to millions of the dead – a whole lot of bones.

First off, let’s give a little credit to this Dowdle Brothers for attempting to add a fresh spin with the hand-held camera flick. Directed and co-written by John Erick Dowdle – along with his brother Drew – the two have fun playing with the idea of a very dark and sinister place. Once the adventurers get inside the caverns, they are each given a camera to wear, so the footage makes a little more sense. Yet far too much of the action moves too quickly and is so dark that it is damn near impossible to see what the hell is going on. However, unlike THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, there is a decent amount of gore which if you don’t blink you may catch.

The story shows a little promise. However the idea of identical worlds, which they discover on their journey deep into the earth, is only briefly touched upon. Having your past present itself to you is little more than the few moments that are featured in the trailer (a piano with a broken key, a car on fire). Most of the screen time is this motley crew going deeper into the darkness underneath Paris arguing and getting freaked out. It also seems as though there was more than a little inspiration found in the far better feature THE DESCENT directed by Neil Marshall.

As far as the actors are concerned, both Weeks and Feldman were not terribly irritating. Sure, Weeks’ Scarlett is more than a little annoying as she seems to forgo any common sense looking for her sacred stone. And Feldman’s George is the token character attempting to try and give the heroine a lesson in rationale. Yet the two actors are convincing enough, as is the rest of the cast. And as the most ill-prepared documentary filmmaker dealing with a questionably intelligent archaeologist, Hodge adds a little humor to his one-note role.

AS ABOVE, SO BELOW could have been a fascinating mix of thriller and adventure. The most interesting ideas are only briefly touched upon, and the victim’s aren’t all that captivating. There is the occasional moment of suspense, but I found more humor than horror. Not the worst example of found footage by a long shot, and it moves a decent pace with a couple of good scares. However, this could have been a far more frightening feature if only it had expanded on its scary premise.

Source: JoBlo.com

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