In As Above So Below, Perdita Weeks stars as Scarlett, a scholar obsessed with finding Nicholas Flamel’s infamous philopsopher’s stone to continue the quest that drover her father mad. Roping an old flame George (Ben Feldman) into doing Aramaic translations for the lead she found, she, along with documentary filmmaker Benji (Edwin Hodge) employ the services of Papi (Francois Civil) and his group to navigate the catacombs of Paris, where there believe Flamel is buried along with the stone of immortality.
I’m really not a big fan of found footage cinema. The shaky cinematography makes me dizzy and it affects my appreciation for the movie itself. For As Above, So Below, I didn’t mind the documentary type cinema as much because the shots were tolerable and it didn’t affect my overall view of the film.
While AASB may seem like another knockoff of the descent and certainly wasn’t the first movie to use the Paris catacombs as a setting for a horror movie, I must credit the writer director John Erick Dowdee for at least stepping up the story by not using the “drunk teenagers looking for a thrill” formula. At least, the story was now a bit more legitimate because the characters were looking for something much more substantial than kicks. The characters who were cast for the film also pulled their weight and delivered solid performances although it was really hard for me to relate, or even empathize with the character of Scarlett.
From the very beginning, Scarlett’s single mindedness, which may seem admirable for some, struck me as selfish and brash. She didn’t improve as the film progressed, as it grew more obvious that she didn’t care for anything except for being proven right. She manipulated George and got him in a lot of trouble, left him when things got tough, and expected him to be at her beck and call, forcing him into going underground even when she very well knew why he didn’t want to go. If she was my friend or old flame, rest assured that I would have let her rot before I helped her with anything. George was too nice (and too gullible).
I liked that parts of the film were actually shot in the real Paris catacombs. It gave the film a really claustrophobic feel that enhanced the suspense factor. The story was also great because it had an air of mystery about it that compelled audiences to think about the clues and figure out for themselves what was the catch in finding Flamel’s stone.
On the downside, the film was a bit slow for a horror. It wasn’t boring but the real action and bloodshed only started an hour and a half into the movie, and this time in between was used to confuse the audience with the odd events beneath the Parisian streets. To its credit, once the supernatural aspect was revealed, it tried to make up for lost time by making the pacing go faster. I’m still on the fence about the resolution though.
All in all, As Above, So Below was not as shocking, creepy or scary as its predecessors in the genre, although it held its own as a shaky cam experience. It had an interesting premise though that landed it slightly higher than the mediocre horror feature. Besides, it always interesting to listen to Frenchmen blowing a gasket or using American swear words.