Set in the creepy catacombs of Paris and shot on location inside their seemingly endless depths, As Above, So Below (2014) is yet another found footage horror film, except it isn’t as lame as other offerings available. We follow adventurous scholar Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) and her team of intrepid explorers, including reluctant ex-lover George (Ben Feldman, of Mad Men fame), as they venture through the catacombs in search of the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. However, as they delve deeper within the tunnels, mysterious incidents begin to occur, as they discover a dark and hidden secret underneath the streets of Paris.
After watching another found footage horror film recently, The Pyramid (2014), I had convinced myself that the found footage horror film genre is done and dusted. However, when I began watching this, I was pleasantly surprised in that it had me hooked within the first main action sequence, which is set in Iran. I found the archaeology and treasure hunting aspect of the film truly fascinating, and the atmosphere within the catacombs so creepy and tense. The main difference between this and The Pyramid however is that As Above, So Below is surprisingly well-acted, even when the more implausible aspects of the story crop up in the final twenty-ish minutes. I found myself reeling in horror from most of the acting in The Pyramid, but when watching this I was pleasantly surprised by Perdita Weeks in her portrayal of ambitious scholar slash treasure hunter Scarlett. The search for the Philosopher’s Stone is led by her understanding of its mystery and lore, which feels authentic, as opposed to archaeologists doing dumb things who should know better, which happens frustratingly often in The Pyramid.
The trouble that people (including myself) seem to have with found footage films these days is the fact that sometimes they just don’t need to be a found footage film. It is worth noting that the found footage aspect of As Above, So Below tends to make sense, and that there is a valid reason for it to be shot that way in the first place. The switching between different characters’ points of view also makes sense, and is edited in such a way that maintains the tense atmosphere of the story. And it certainly is tense, with one particular scene where the characters must crawl through a tiny space amongst piles of discarded bones being a highlight, where scariness and tension is built without dumb jump scares or loud noises. As the found footage aspect is recorded through cameras strapped to the characters’ heads, when they’re in conflict with one another we’re stuck right in the middle. I am actually surprised by how much I actually appreciated and enjoyed the found footage aspect of the film, even though the shaky camerawork has the potential to make you feel a bit nauseous.
I realise that my positive view of this film may be a rare one, as the film is currently sitting on a 26% Tomatometer score. Although the film doesn’t deliver 100% on its interesting premise and certain romance elements feel forced and unnecessary, As Above, So Below is still a pretty good found footage horror film. I normally find most newer horror films lame and opportunistic in their liberal use of jump scares and loud noises, but this film didn’t rely on lame horror conventions, which actually made it more scary. As with the rest of the influx of found footage horror films nowadays, this film doesn’t necessarily contribute anything to the horror genre or do anything new. However, to my surprise, I found this genuinely enjoyable. Just don’t watch this if you suffer from claustrophobia, as that would be a very uncomfortable experience indeed.
Watch the trailer here.