As Above, So Below
Premise: A historian/alchemist named Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) is trying to finish her dead father’s work of finding Nicholas Flamel’s tomb in the catacombs under France and locating the Philosopher’s Stone. Wait, what is this, Harry Potter? No? Ok. While searching for the Stone underground, her friend Ron gets injured in a life-sized chess match, then she fights a basilisk and stabs Tom Riddle’s diary with a tooth. Gryffindor then got 150 extra points in the house cup because Harry made a kick ass grilled cheese sandwich. No, but seriously, the characters in As Above, So Below sort of literally stumble into hell. NO BIGGIE.
-I got what I originally came for: a few simulated moments of severe claustrophobia that made my chest get tight and my armpits get sweaty. I’m sure the fact that I ate three large slices of Rosati’s pizza and chugged a bottle of blue Gatorade before the movie contributed to those symptoms as well.
-The main character was pretty good for this kind of movie. Scarlett wasn’t just a shrieking lunatic with wet, torn clothes; she was someone who used a lot of critical thinking and a good dose of lady balls to get out of a bunch of situations. This could have just been a movie about some dumb cave explorers getting lost and randomly dying one by one, but she made it more of an adventure.
-On that note, somewhere underneath a few layers of bad camerawork, CGI ghost statues, and comical French accents; there was an almost Indiana Jones-like adventure story, especially in the first half. Or at least National Treasure-like…
-I kind of eat up anything relating to a Dante’s Inferno vision of hell. There was plenty of that here, and done reasonably well to an extent. I kind of wish they’d just make a Dante’s Inferno movie, but there wasn’t really any conflict in that story, as it was just some dude walking around looking at messed up stuff. Then again, so was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Get Terry Gilliam on the phone!
-The characters would wander into a tomb with a dead medieval corpse in it, and they’d get all up close to it, and spend a few minutes in the room, and the whole time I’m just wondering when the corpse is going to get up and murder someone. This movie had the restraint to not make the corpse get up, while simultaneously having something else kind of obvious happen. It’s a pro and a con, but at least both obvious things didn’t happen.
-There are some jump scares, for sure, but I was actually surprised at how the entire movie wasn’t just frivolously littered with them. Instead, there’s a lot of things happening in the darkness of the background, and a lot of walking through rooms with things slightly moving. You know what’s scarier than something popping out at me? The implication that the second I leave the room I’m in, something will start following me. I also appreciated the moments when the characters would slowly walk towards the opening to the next room, and there was actual suspense as to what we were about to see next.
-There was no stupid twist at the end. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: any modern horror movie that doesn’t have the last frame of the movie being a ghost lunging at the camera is alright in my book.
-There were about three really good camera shots, and then the rest of the cinematography will be commented on in the next section. But those three shots were pretty good.
-The opening scene looked like someone was kicking a camera down a flight of stairs. It was found footage style done in the worst way possible. I don’t think any of us paid to see a fifteen second shot of blurry nothingness and the sounds of heavy breathing. It’s nauseating, not terrifying.
- This movie would have been a full point better had it not been dragged down by the found footage gimmick. I guess I get it, though, they’re shooting this thing on a budget, and maybe this is the only way they could get it done? Whatever. I just hope that screenwriters aren’t writing these screenplays with the mentality of “Oh man, I’m writing this great found footage movie, dude! You’re gonna love how shaky it is!”, instead of just wanting to write a good horror movie about adventurers mistakenly digging their way into hell.
-While Scarlett was pretty intelligent, her comrades made a lot of dumb mistakes. Seriously, just don’t touch anything down there. Anytime anyone touched something, it was like Short Round leaning on the button to make the spikes come down from the ceiling.
-My friend who I saw it with made a good observation after the movie: “Looks like we’re entering hell. Let’s keep going deeper!”
-The title of the movie is pretty stupid, and it felt weird to ask for a ticket to it at the box office. But I guess it’s more interesting than calling it “The Catacombs” or something generic like that.
Final Thoughts: Honestly, I was expecting way worse, and was pleasantly surprised to see it was pretty alright. FOR WHAT IT WAS. Listen, I like giving movies like these a chance, and I got more out of this than I was planning on getting. Yes, it has clichéd, tired camerawork and few a few overused horror techniques, but it also appeared to be trying harder than most other films of the found footage genre. And hey, as I’m looking at what’s coming out this weekend, getting As Above, So Below last weekend seems like a gift. What am I supposed to see on Saturday? The crappy looking biopic about twin Elvis guys, the crappy looking teen movie about vampire school, that crappy looking Bourne rip off with Pierce Brosnan, or that crappy looking adaptation of The Giver? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh… Maybe I’ll just go see Guardians of the Galaxy again…
6.5 out of 10
This was only worth getting Rosati's for? Not Father-And Son? That's a bigger indictment, I'd say.
BTW, If you're serious about your interest in Dante, Larry Niven co-wrote the book for you: "Inferno", where you go a a journey to see the exact versions of the levels of Hell Dante wrote about.
Kind of sorta want to see November Man, if it's a knockoff Bond-styled thing with Brosnan.