Saturday, September 6, 2014

As Above, So Below Review

As Above, So Below Review

The catacombs of France should be labeled as a Wonder of the World. It seems like a place that would only exist in your dreams, but is a real place indeed. There are several stories that at the center of the catacombs, which further nurture its notorious nature. They are an interesting place and they are near perfect backdrop for a movie. Especially a horror movie. “As Above, So Below” makes expert use of its location. You will probably read this same idea in about a thousand other reviews for this movie, but it is hard to tell if this film was shot on location or if the sets were built by a film crew. The authenticity of the project is undeniable. The sets of the film look real, and that makes everything else you are about to see much more effective.

The film follows Scarlet Marlow (Perdita Weeks), a young, attractive female Indiana Jones. As the film opens, she is illegally roaming through Iran, searching for clues of the location of an old alchemy artifact. Her search leads her to Paris, France and she enlists the help of George (Ben Feldman) in searching for the artifact. George is reluctant to help Scarlet, as they had a fling that landed him in a Turkish jail, but he eventually agrees. There research leads them to the catacombs, and soon enough, they are assembling a team to go down there are venture to the spots where tourists are not allowed. Accompanied by Papillon (Francois Civil), Souxie (Marion Lambert), Zed (Ali Marhyar) and Benji (played by Edwin Hodge, Benji is the man behind the camera, mostly), Scarlet gets much more than she bargained for.

Perdita Weeks is quite the discovery here. She has a ton of confidence in front of the camera and she makes her character more than believable. She brings her ambitious character to life without any traits feeling forced. She does a fairly good job of keeping her character from becoming cliché, it’s a fine performance. The rest of the cast is also quite good. I particularly applaud Civil, Lambert, Hodge, Feldman and Marhyar who spend the film playing types, yet they still produce strong work in the movie. With horror movies, especially found-footage horror movies, we need to buy into the character’s stories if the film will work, and with “As Above, So Below” I think that was the case.

I know you all are probably sick of found-footage by now. Yep, this argument comes up in this blog quite a bit, and it seems this argument will not cease anytime soon. Possibly one of the biggest detractors of this film is whether or not the found-footage works in this film or not. I think for the most part, the device works to the advantage of this film’s success. Every character has a camera installed in their helmets, and that actually makes some of the recordings somewhat impossible at times, and how each point-of-view changes are never quite clear. Alas, the film is another fine example that mood and atmosphere topples blood and guts anytime, for me at least. As I stated above, the film makes good use of the catacombs, whether they were shot there or not. There were scenes in this film which were just, plain, claustrophobic and they set a staggering unease in my mind. Add some good jump scares and a terrifying soundtrack, and the mood created from that is nearly unbearable.

There are some character beats that did not sit right with me and distracted me a bit. “As Above, So Below” is another film which features smart people making incredibly dumb decisions. That is the nature of horror sometimes. The supernatural elements of the film are never fully explored, and without giving anything away, I am not sure if the characters landed where I think they did or not. Sometimes, horror does not need to make narrative sense; the dread created in this film’s running time is enough to see the film in theaters. I always say that any horror film is worth your time if I sat there watching parts through my fingers. Such was the case with this movie. 


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