As Above, So Below (2014) is a found-footage film by brothers John and Drew Dowdle who are no strangers to the horror genre. It follows three previous horror films—Devil (2010), Quarantine (2008), and The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007). The film is set in modern-day Paris, mostly in the Parisian catacombs, with opening and closing found footage clips. The main character, Scarlet, is played by the talented Perdita Weeks. Edwin Hodge plays Benji, Scarlet’s camera man and friend, Ben Feldman plays George, Scarlet’s old love interest. Papillon, played by François Civil, is a Parisian who leads them deep into the catacombs.
The only way out is down
Scarlet is following in her father’s foot steps, an archaeologist who went mad in search of the Philosopher’s Stone. Early in the film, Scarlet travels to the Middle East and finds more clues about the stone, which leads her to the catacombs of Paris. She’s not in search of treasures or riches, but instead she’s in search of the truth about the stone—about alchemy—perhaps secretly hoping to prove her father’s life was not wasted. In Paris, Scarlet seeks out George, an old flame, whose help she needs in translating some of the clues she found in the Middle East. Scarlet and George meet Papillon and friends, who agree to take them to a secret and undocumented area of the catacombs. Soon after they enter the catacombs, the explorers become trapped and hopelessly lost, horrifically haunted by their tormented pasts. In search of a way out, each character fights to survive as they are forced straight down under the catacombs, eventually reaching the gates of hell. Only then does Scarlet discover the true meaning of the stone—as above, so below.
Most of the action takes places in dark enclosed spaces, often so small that some of the characters must force themselves through narrow openings. This darkness sets the stage for the decline of each character, especially as they descend further into the depths of the catacombs. One by one each character is haunted by unpleasant memories from the past—triggered by guilt, maybe—but it ultimately leads to a short period of madness followed by a horrific death. There are two key scenes that occur during the day. The first is shortly after the film opens while Benji is filming an interview with Scarlet about her search for the philosopher’s stone. The rest of the interview is shown at the end of the film where Scarlet declares that her quest is indeed in search of the truth.
The Indiana Jones-in-search-of-a-relic theme worked well in this film. The scholar-archaeologist duo provided an engaging story line from beginning to end. What works best in the film is the Dowdle brothers’ ability to create a great horror film without any real special effects other than a suffocating, claustrophobic panic that lasts for most of the film. The feeling was authentic enough that several members of the audience, including me, made statements about feeling claustrophobic.
I saw this film at a screening the day before its release here in Orlando. When the movie ended, I was surprised to hear so many folks say they didn’t like the film. Not because of the acting, which was awesome, and not because of the story, but because they expected a lot more blood and gore. And, yes, there are moments of sheer terror in the film, but like any good horror film, the most terrifying moments are best left to the imagination. For this, I give it four stars.
As Above, So Below (2014) [rating=4]
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Writer: Drew Dowdle
Stars: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, François Civil, Edwin Hodge
Runtime: 93 minutes
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Found Footage
Released: 29 August 2014
Official Website: http://www.asabovesobelowmovie.com/