As Above, So Below (2014): Quick-shot review!

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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.

3.5/5
Watch the trailer here.

16 comments

  1. I definitely agree ‘found footage’ horror films are played out. Haven’t seen this one, though.

    1. It’s not a bad one to watch if you’re experiencing found footage fatigue!

  2. Victor De Leon · · Reply

    Didn’t care for this one. I was so confused (which is easy for me to be these days) as to what was going on but that ending! It almost redeemed the experience for me. Kudos to going against the grain on this one! I guess I was suffering from Found Footage fatigue when i saw this. Good review!

    1. Thanks Victor! I agree, the ending was pretty great. A very unexpected visual moment!

  3. I liked this one too which surprised me. It wasn’t the best film ever but it used the found footage well and was quite claustraphobic at times. It helped that they shot a lot of it in the catacombes as well to make it feel more authentic. Great review.

    1. Thanks Lauren! I loved that it was shot in the actual catacombs, makes it even more claustrophobic.

  4. Nice review, Anna! 🙂 I’m happy to see a pretty positive review of this. I’m fascinated by the catacombs (I visited several years ago – very creepy!) so was planning to check this out even though I was expecting it to suck. Happy to hear that it at least sounds MUCH better than that movie Pink was in (Catacombs). God that was bad…

    1. Why thanks T9M! I’ve always wanted to visit the catacombs, it looks so creepy and it weirds me out that there is so much of it to explore. I think I’ll avoid any film starring Pink! This one isn’t so bad though. You may enjoy it having been there yourself!

      1. Yeah… It really is best to avoid the Pink film. 😉 Awful! Being in the catacombs was by far the creepiest thing I’ve ever experienced. You’re of course following a path they’ve kept opened for tourists and there are lights in those bits but there are so many miles of tunnels beyond & the thought of getting lost down there is truly freaky. It was quite an experience, though – I’d definitely recommend the visit.

  5. I liked this one too Anna, it is probably near the top of my recommended FF films to see.

    1. Yeah, I normally really dislike found footage horrors because most of them are done badly!

  6. It’s refreshing to see some positivity for this one but I found it to be a real bore. I’m a fan of found footage but this one was messy, formulaic and quite dull.

    1. Messy, formulaic and dull is how I would describe the majority of found footage horrors nowadays! It really is a bit of a miracle that I enjoyed this given my disdain for the genre.

  7. Your review has actually convinced me to give this a shot.

    1. I hope you enjoy it! 😀

  8. […] do I keep watching films like this? As with my rationale behind watching similar films such as As Above, So Below (2014) and The Pyramid (2014), I really wanted to watch JeruZalem mostly because I was interested […]

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