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As Above, So Below
Dir: John Erick Dowdle
Starring: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, and Edwin Hodge
3.00 out of 5.00
Movie Review — “As Above, So Below”
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS~ 9/10/2014
Claustrophobic and in moments creepy, director John Erick Dowdle gave “As Above, So Below” a fighting chance amongst genre clichés and forced frights. Using the rudimentary “found footage” style, Dowdle transported a cast of young explorers into the catacombs underneath the streets of Paris. The unsettling location created some wonderful atmosphere. Unfortunately, the narrative foregoes exploration of some provoking historical elements introduced early on, and the film became overly predictable and filled with the usual telegraphed scares that flaw films using this style choice.
Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) is a single-minded researcher bent on finishing her deceased father’s life work of finding an ancient historical artifact. This leads her initially into a dangerous cavern in Iran that almost kills her. Following the clues from Iran, she is led to Paris and into the forbidden section of the catacombs below the city. Looking for a secret doorway, Scarlett and her crew are trapped in the mazelike tomb leading them into the supernatural and face to face with their innermost fear.
The story began as a treasure hunt in the vein of ‘Tomb Raider,’ though not as intelligent or action packed. The history mystery had Scarlett investigating artifacts and piecing together a puzzle started by her father. This ultimately served to accommodate the plot change, which brought a larger group of people to aid Scarlett into the catacombs of Paris.
Once below, the group was haunted by apparitions that reflected their own traumas and fears. The film only touched the surface of character development, though it could have offered an interesting inquiry into the secrets of past civilizations and the personal horror hidden inside the individual. The introduction was fairly sloppy, though, when the transition from adventure to horror happens, the atmosphere took control and things got interesting.
While nothing narratively will be particularly unique for horror fans, Dowdle shrewdly utilized claustrophobic spaces, the confusion of darkness, and disorienting sound designs to keep things sinister. In one scene, the simple design of a chanting chorus, along with a nightmarish situation for one of the characters, really brought the journey into the cavernous unknown to echoing life.
It’s unfortunate that the film used the “found footage” technique. Whether a budgetary or production concern, the hand-held approach hurt the frightening potential that the disturbing environment possessed. Every scare became telegraphed, and the camera shook away the atmosphere.
“As Above, So Below” had an effectively creepy mood to work with, and for a moment, the location hid the weaknesses of the narrative. Perdita Weeks gave a decent performance as the brave and ambitious to a fault researcher, but unfortunately the tiresome filmic technique hindered the terrifying experience proposed in the premise.