As Above, So Below

Directed By: John Erick Dowdle

Starring: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, and François Civil

Summer 2014 is coming to a close.  The excitement I put forth back in May when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 arrived hasn't materialized into a wealth of big budget blockbusters behind which we all can rally.  While I have lauded smaller films like Chef, Snowpiercer, and Boyhood, we peaked too early with films like Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past.  It's been downhill ever since, and the season is now going to close on a whimper.  On this Labor Day weekend, the big film of the weekend is set to be As Above, So Below, yet another found footage horror film.

Scarlet (Perdita Weeks) is a young professor from London who studies archaeology and symbology.  Scarlet is also a field researcher bent on honoring her father's legacy and finding the legendary Philosopher's Stone, a mythical object that's rumored to give eternal life.  After risking her life in the caves of Iran to discover a critical clue to finding the stone, she decides to go to Paris.  The clue suggests that the stone may be buried in the catacombs of Paris along with famed alchemist Nicolas Flamel.  Upon arriving, she reaches out to her friend George (Ben Feldman) with whom she shares some romantic history.  He reluctantly helps her and discovers that the Philosopher's Stone may be hidden in a secret tunnel of the catacombs.  To get there, they're going to need the help of someone who knows the catacombs.  They're going to need Papillon (François Civil).

Supposedly, hell is 714 feet below the earth's surface.  At least, that's what legend dictates.  If that’s the case, that’s my lesson for the day.  I must say that I enjoyed As Above, So Below more than I thought I would.  Despite the fact that it's a found footage horror film that plays on many of the popular styles and techniques of the niche genre, there's something refreshing about this horror movie.  There aren't too many movies where the main characters literally wade into hell.  I respect this rather bold creative decision.  It enables director John Erick Dowdle to build terror slowly but surely and to bring his vision of hell to creepy life.

Like most horror films, there are some drawbacks to As Above, So Below.  Most viewers would say that there's no way in hell that they would just stroll into Satan's backyard for what amounts to nothing more than an academic exercise.  They would be quite right.  The notion of facing a trial of this scale for the pure joy of finding a legendary treasure — not the financial motivations or the accolades that come with it — seems to be the foundation of a weak premise.  It doesn't help that some of the characters have pointless roles.  Take Edwin Hodge's Benji for instance.  All this bumbling guy does is get hurt, cry for help continuously, and embarrass black men everywhere.  Example like the two aforementioned ones take away from what the film could have been.

As Above, So Below gets a 0.06% rating.  The director could have dodged some of the pitfalls mentioned and fleshed out the character's backgrounds a bit more.  On the whole, however, it's definitely an eerie picture that gets the job done.  Have a couple of rounds of beer with this one.