“As Above, So Below” Film Critique

By Austin Siscoe, Art Critic

2 ½ of 5 Stars

“As Above, So Below” is the newest found-footage film written and directed by John Erick Dowdle (Devil, Quarantine). The film follows Scarlet, a young adventurous woman in search of the Philosopher’s Stone to continue her father’s mission of discovering its secrets. She gathers a documentary crew and some expert catacomb explorers and begins a journey into the catacombs to try and find a hidden room that should contain the stone.

Set in the Parisian catacombs, the film utilizes the claustrophobic feel to its advantage as the tight camera angles and extreme close-ups add a certain element of dread. The film offers a decent first act, providing much information about the Parisian catacombs as well as explaining a few major beliefs of alchemy. The film proves to be fairly informational while not making it seem like an overly long documentary; however, the middle of the film begins to fall into standard found-footage territory as the crew wanders around the catacombs and begins to realize they are in way over their heads. The main problem here is there are far too many sequences of characters getting stuck in tight spaces and making ugly crying faces. This is intended to create unease among the audience, but the effect is annoying as characters get stuck, complain for a few seconds and then get out just fine with one or two scratches. The characters are sustaining no real injuries and seem to be making it out of these unreal situations, which no human would ever survive unless they were the luckiest person alive.

Once the third act begins things drastically change. The third act takes place when explorers begin to explore the depths of what the film refers to as the ‘depths of Hell.’ The major upside to this is that the catacombs are now filled with odd creatures, and the film offers fairly frightening sequences that are used effectively to create a real sense of danger. This is when the film shows its best material as the film begins to feel just like the film “The Descent.”

Overall, the film is a decent horror flick. It has a fairly unique new angle on horror films as it introduces alchemy in an educational and fairly decent light, but it suffers from a dull second half, utilizing the overused found-footage genre. Also, it has one too many borrowed twists from other films, which drags the film’s plot down a little.

Upsides:

* Well-executed third act for a found-footage horror film.

* Informative about the Parisian catacombs.

* No horrendous acting.

Downsides:

* Found-footage genre.

* Bad horror clichés.

* A dull second act.

0 Comments

  1. I like your review and analysis of AS ABOVE, SO BELOW, but have some misgivings about your categorizing “found footage” as a negative. The film was created with the intent of filming as found footage. Had this film been shot as a traditional narrative, I don’t believe the story would have the same gritty visceral tone and horrific realness as a pure found footage film.

    Michael
    http://foundfootagecritic.com

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