In a world where horror stereotypes and scary scenarios are all overused and expected, what can filmmakers do to make theirs original?
Make sure whoever is supposed to die first in horror movies actually dies second, of course.
Written by Drew Dowdle and John Erick Dowdle, who also directed, As Above, So Below spends the majority of the film as a [Rec] and The Blair Witch Project-esque documentary, in which the audience follows Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) and George (Ben Feldman) through their journey to find a well sought after treasure. This ancient treasure, a stone with powers of alchemy and granting eternal life, lies deep down within the catacombs of France, and it is up to the main characters to find it, but to get out with their lives as well.
The film also stars Edwin Hodge as Benji, the cameraman, and catacomb explorers Papilon (Pap), Zed and Souxie, played by Francois Civil, Ali Marhyar and Marion Lambert, respectively. Scarlett at first enlists the help of George – who, because of her, previously went to a Turkish jail – to help decipher the hidden meaning and location of the stone. After they come to the conclusion that the stone is located in the deep, untraveled parts of the French catacombs, they enlist the help of Pap and his friends who have traveled through the catacombs and are considered experts in routes and surviving underground. Throughout the film, the group comes across trouble as their number slowly dwindles after horrific occurrences.
As Above, So Below does an amazing job of… well, … ok, it isn’t that scary. But then again, it is. The entire film focuses on the use of pop-up suspense (jump scares), which gives off that fear that all of us have within us, but it also does not allow for actual fear to set in. It’s more of a jump up kind of movie, in which the audience knows what’s going to happen but still jumps when it does. We all know that creepy mole guy is going to attack; it’s just a matter of when.
The movie, however, does an excellent job of allowing the audience to lose its sense of reality. As soon as the film starts, we quickly travel deep underground to the catacombs in which we fear for the lives of the crew. However, this feeling can only last for a few minutes. As soon as the group enters the underground, we’re left wondering what happened to the things the cast have said and done. “Why would the five second scene of a cop be necessary? Why don’t they just turn back? Why can’t she hear them falling for a trap?”
The entire time we are left wondering why certain events have happened and why there was nothing done to counter these occurrences. It honestly goes back to the main idea of it being a kind of parody. Either the filmmakers have had it with all the clichés of a regular horror film and therefore have succeeded in making the ultimate horror parody, or it’s just their shot at a horror movie and they have failed horribly.
In either case, it is a hit or miss kind of movie. There are times when the characters are intentionally saying lines that would cause the audience to laugh, but most of the time, it seems more like a remake of The Room,in which lines were just said randomly, as if they were necessary to include. The obligatory make-out scene in the beginning is included just as someone would ask if someone were dead, even though they are clearly dead.
In all, the film is entertaining, just as long as the audience keeps in mind the film is just a film. The acting is fine, just as that is the proper word to describe the film itself – just fine.
As Above, So Below (6 stars ★★★★★★) is now in theaters, and you can watch the trailer below: