So I’ve pretty much given up on the whole found footage fad in filmmaking. I’ve been over it for quite some time. Hell, I’m just plain sick of seeing them. Much like the zombie subgenre, it’s become overly saturated and not very effective. At least this is what I thought before watching AS ABOVE, SO BELOW, a film that somehow fell through the cracks and ended up in my lap after forgetting it had even been made. It’s been quite some time since I last found myself watching a film, literally sitting on the edge of my seat, and biting nails. I wouldn’t say it scared me but it was without question a tense, tight, and a sometimes chilling exercise in horror. From John and Drew Dowdle, the brother team who previously delivered DEVIL and QUARANTINE, pulled no punches when crafting this dark little flick.
The Philosopher’s Stone is a thing a legend. A stone with the power to grant eternal life or turn metal into gold. Just like her father before her, Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) has made the discovery of the stone her life’s work. After making a huge breakthrough, she assembles a small team to venture into the darkness of Paris’ Catacombs. Once inside, they stray off the beaten path and find themselves lost and falling victim to their own worst fears. The deeper they go the more things become sinister, bringing them closer and closer to entering the depths of hell. Scarlett is determined to find the stone but her curiosity may lead them to a dark force waiting for them.
Using the found footage technique, the film is able to capture some seriously tense moments of real life terror, combining it with supernatural elements, this thing somehow ends up working on every level. The cast is strong and very believable while the effects are done so eloquently, it never takes you out of the experience. The pacing of the picture works well, opening with more of an adventure tale or something more akin to an Indiana Jones film than horror. Once they enter the Catacombs, all bets are off and you never know what to expect or what will happen next as they crawl through cracks and try to survive in the darkness. Often overlooked, the sound design of this film is incredibly important and plays a major role in its success. The whispers, cracking, etc. help to lessen the blow of all the dizzying shaky cam shots. Nothing is perfect, the film does have a few minor faults but I felt it was impossible to make it much better than it already is. A very engrossing film and one you won’t want to miss.