So, every now and then, I get really excited about a movie from its trailer (which is the point of a trailer, of course). My top three, in no particular order, would probably be 21 Jump Street, Watchmen, and Guardians of the Galaxy. I love trailers, but I tend to try not to get pumped for a lot of movies just in case they show the best stuff in the trailer and I end up walking out of the movie all pouty.
That being said, I could barely contain my excitement for As Above, So Below. A found footage movie in the catacombs beneath Paris that leads the hapless protagonists into literal hell? Ghosts from their past coming back to do more than just haunt them? My hype level was at an all-time high. I thought, “Could this be the film that reinvigorates the found footage genre?” I was so excited, I made sure I didn’t watch the new trailer they released last week (see below), just in case it would taint my overall giddiness.
Could this movie possibly match my expectations? Did I set myself up for my own ninety-minute trip into hell? Strap on your headlamps and find out below.
I would also like to include a trigger warning for anybody reading this that has aversion to frightening images. The pictures below are pretty in-your-face, as is befitting of a found footage horror film, and I don’t want anybody getting upset.
As Above, So Below
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Release Date: August 29
As Above, So Below tells the story of Scarlet Marlowe, a brilliant, driven, young woman who can speak a bunch of languages, is highly trained in martial arts, and is obsessed with finding the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. After a major break points her in the direction of the famous catacombs in Paris, she and her cameraman Benji (Edwin Hodge) sucker her friend George (Ben Feldman) who likes fixing broken things, a French guy with expert knowledge of the off-limits areas of the catacombs named Papillon (François Civil), his girlfriend Souxie (Marion Lambert), and his best friend Zed (Ali Marhyar) into joining them on their quest. Obviously, things go bad almost right from the get-go and Scarlet finds herself and her band of misfits in over their heads as they find themselves with no choice but to go further and further down beneath the catacombs.
I feel like when you go to see a found footage movie, the acting is not terribly important. Since Blair Witch, it’s been more about watching terrible things happen to these people than the people themselves. Unfortunately, outside of the almost over-developed Scarlet and the likable George, everybody was more or less a paper-thin sacrifice. Souxie has no development at all (you don’t even get to find out what her skeleton in the closet is) and Zed is in the same boat, with literally one line to justify what haunts him. I can’t talk about the bodycount or most of the deaths in the film without spoiling too much, but the one from the trailer was definitely a highlight. The others were abrupt and realistic, even if there’s little to no explanation for one or two of them.
One thing the movie got absolutely right was the setting. The catacombs and what sat below them were incredibly claustrophobic and I felt myself tensing up for a lot of the movie. However, once their trip led to more open areas, it was a little less scary. There’s a lot of WTF moments, but that’s because they’re in hell and you don’t really need to explain, but when your characters are being haunted by their past sins, it is nice to know what those sins are.
As Above, So Below had a large cast for a found footage movie, and they were mostly there to serve as cannon fodder, but I really found myself disinterested in their plight for the most part. The claustrophobia-inducing setting was nice and certainly effective, and while they took the concept of a literal decent into hell and pushed it pretty far, I felt they could’ve pushed it even further. Found footage movies aren’t exactly known for great endings, and as different from the herd as this one’s was, I found myself even madder than usual when the credits roll. I even insisted to my weary friend that we stay through the credits just to see if they had one more scene afterward (they did not). There was a Silent Hill-esque feel to things, and it could very well have made for one of the best possible endings a found footage movie has ever had. I would go on, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Perhaps I’ll write a separate article about how I would’ve ended the film.
Ultimately, I was disappointed with this movie. But is it the movie’s fault or my own sky-high expectations? Maybe a little of both. It’s not that is was bad, it just wasn’t the breath of fresh air that I so desperately wanted it to be for the found footage genre. If you’re a found footage junkie, looking for a decent horror movie to get your fix ’til Halloween rolls around, or interested in unique settings, check out As Above, So Below. If you’re not one of those things, you might want to skip it.