As Above, So Below
Film Review by Kam Williams
Catacombs Create Claustrophobic Setting for Harrowing Horror Flick
The late alchemist, Dr. Marlowe (Roger Van Hool) lost his mind and then committed suicide over a futile quest for the Philosopher’s Stone supposedly hidden somewhere in the cryptic maze of catacombs beneath Paris. Now, his headstrong young daughter, Scarlet (Perdita Weeks), has decided to follow in daddy’s footsteps by mounting her own search for the sacred talisman said to turn metal into gold.
The determined Brit has prepared herself for the dangerous trek by earning not only Ph.D.s in archeology and symbology, but a black belt in karate to boot. She’s being assisted in this dangerous endeavor by a team comprised of her linguist ex-boyfriend (Ben Feldman); an African-American cameraman (Edwin Hodge); a graffiti artist familiar with the caves (Francois Civil); plus a couple of other local yokels (Marion Lambert and Aly Marhyar).
The motley crew’s descent starts out unremarkably enough, despite a little gallows humor and worries about whether they might encounter any bats or rats. The most concerned participant is George whose little brother Danny (Samuel Aouizerate) drowned in the cave at a young age. Adding fuel to the fear is the fact that the last time George accompanied Scarlet on an expedition he ended up in Turkish prison.
This is the ominous point of departure of As Above, So Below, a found-footage horror flick written and directed by John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine). The film has all the hallmarks of the genre inaugurated by The Blair Witch Project back in 1999, from the claustrophobia created by incessant, extreme close-ups to the seasick cinematography coming courtesy of handheld cameras.
Credit Perdita Weeks as the intrepid protagonist for keeping her audience enthralled even after the production morphs into a farfetched cross of Tomb Raider (2001) and The Da Vinci Code (2006). Whether crawling across piles of skeletons, deciphering ancient Aramaic messages, or fearlessly repelling down uncharted shafts, spunky Scarlet has the ‘tude and charisma to keep you rooting for her as others meet their fate, one-by-one.
A harrowing tale of survival revolving around an endearing heroine every bit as brainy as she is resourceful.
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for terror, graphic violence and pervasive profanity
Running time: 93 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures
To see a trailer for As Above, So Below, visit: