Monday, September 8, 2014
"As Above, So Below" Review - Written by Jim Herling
I'm really not a fan of "found footage" movies. I find the whole genre and all the tropes and trappings that go along with it tired and boring. Every now and then, though, a movie in that style will come along and play with the genre, do something new and fresh with it to make it enjoyable again. Or, lacking that, while it might not do anything different, the movie might just be so damn good that it rises above the faults of the genre. From the trailers, I had high hopes that As Above, So Below would fit one of these two categories.
Disappointment really is a bitter pill to swallow, especially in hell.
Basically, As Above, So Below (directed by John Erick Dowdle who also co-wrote worth Drew Dowdle) is part Indiana Jones and part The Descent, but in POV. It starts off with Scarlet Marlowe (Perdita Weeks, a fairly compelling lead) an archaeologist and explorer, in a cave in Iran that is about to explode, as she tries to finish the work that caused her father to take his own life: finding the Flamel Stone (aka the Philosopher's Stone). She finds a statute of a bull with something called the Rose Key carved into it in the cave before it blows up and from there, with her cameraman Benji (Edwin Hodge) documenting it all, the chase is on, Dr. Jones style. They go to Paris and recruit her ex-flame George (Ben Feldman, a likeable co-star and the only character with even an iota of common sense) to help, and they begin deciphering maps and tracking down clues until they realize the stone is in a walled-off part of the Paris catacombs. A random stranger tells them who can guide them to that area and then disappears when they aren't looking, something that is never explained and is the harbinger of just how far off the rails the up-til-now movie will go.
They find and hire the guide in question and his two friends, all three of them young French explorers who hang out in the catacombs for fun, and promise them they can keep all the treasure they expect to find with the stone. Despite sensibly not wanting to go, Ben accompanies them, and once the company hits the catacombs, the movie goes from fun and interesting to just another "found footage" schlock fest filled with shaking camera shots, barely glimpsed threats, telegraphed scares and a ridiculously jumbled plot that involves defying the laws of physics completely. The idea of whether or not they found a way into hell is left dangling, with whether it's actual hell or a mystical place that makes people confront their own personal hells never explained. Also, the idea of if it was accidental or if they were led there for some unexplored reason, a la the disappearing man who directed them to their guides, is never addressed either. There are other plot hole examples, but those are the most glaring. This flick left me hanging, no real closure or even sense to be found by the end, but the cast was decent and I enjoyed the first half of the movie, so I give it 2.5 stars out of 5.