**Some mild spoilers follow**
Cast/Crew: Directed by John Erick Dowdle (Devil, Quarantine, Poughkeepsie Tapes) and written by himself and his brother Drew, with Perdita Weeks as protagonist Scarlett.
Plot: “As Above, So Below” is an independent horror film about a group going deeper into the caves of Paris to find a legendary stone.
Thoughts on the film:
• The protagonist is Scarlett Marlow (Perdita Weeks, a pretty, Welsh lady) who is basically Lara Croft. She goes on adventures in dangerous foreign lands to uncover historical artifacts (and not for monetary gain). She affects is a strong, extremely british accent. Incorporating legends, myths and historical events is very Tomb Raider.
• She convinces her cameraman Benji and former lover George to find a guide (‘Pap’) to find a secret passageway through the catacombs underneath the city (which is actually real, I’ve been there, it’s v cool, and they filmed in the actual catacombs!!). This legendary artifact is a the Philospher’s stone. Yep! I know, right! Capable of turning base metals into gold, and other properties like healing. Pap and his friends go in exchange for half of the treasure that she convinces them she’s after.
• Since it’s shot using a hand-camera and supposed footage from head-mounted cameras, there’s a lot of shaky cam. For the most part it’s fine except for parts where it’s intentionally disorienting.
• Throughout the film, especially Scarlett continually whispers, speaks softly and quickly talks to herself. Combined with a frustrating audio range, it means you will miss a few lines, and is thoroughly frustrating. At some parts they’ll have the ‘this is a scary part’ audio cue which means you’re watching this with your finger on the volume button.
• It’s amazing how alarm bells don’t start ringing when they initially find one of their long-time missing friends alive and willing to help them out!
• It feels like a videogame, how they go to one section and the way backwards is walled off; and how Scarlett’s tasked to many solve riddles on the fly to continue. She’s super-quick with them; and it feels reaching in places, just like an old-school point & click adventure. There’s even backtracking!! I was half expecting her to find a shield key and start trying out different locked doors, or move large statues over pressure-sensitive tiles.
• Em, why aren’t any of them in proper cave gear? It’s a headband and afternoon matinee attire. They seem pretty ill-equipped.
• Benji the cameraman gets caught in a tight space and freaks out. This is what I’d be doing! Also, people shouting CALM DOWN doesn’t help!
• They explain the odd title (As Above, So Below), which handily is a clue to a few room’s puzzles. It’s a very cool trick, like going through a hole to go into a ‘dark’ version of the same room you left.
• It’s all ominous sounds and noises but it doesn’t start getting down to business until an hour in. It gets overly shakycam to be intentionally disorienting and to hide the low budget while trying to be creepy. Unfortunately since there’s not much money going around, there’s sparing instances of blood, gore, and generally cheap costumes (just flash a light for a few seconds). There’s a short segment with a burning car and dust wall monsters that the budget was likely spent on!
• My favourite part of the film is when Scarlett backtracks. Short but very cool; including punching wall/dust monsters in the face, and previously clear water is now all blood instead. Great stuff.
• They also do some nice callbacks, like earlier a sign saying trumpets herald entering hell, and later on hearing trumpets. Also, deceased guard near the Flamel Stone room, awesome.
• The film is Rated R; I’m surprised as there’s no hugely explicit violence or nudity (just a few instances of quick gore).
• It’s not a twist but there is a cool ending that makes sense, and also a nice visual.
Overall: It’s a decent flick, it’s below a recommend but it’s one of the better found footage films – an easy 93 minutes.