Two weeks ago I decided to swear off found-footage movies for at least a year. I’d told my editor about my decision and he just laughed; I’ve had to review so many over the past while that it became a running joke. A few nights ago I decided to watch a movie at random. What was that movie? As Above So Below. What was its genre? Found-footage. Yip, I was Bad Luck Brian.
“So, Graham, what did you think of this movie? And stop telling us about your life,” I hear the masses cry out.
“Fine!” I shout back while folding my arms in passive aggressive protest.
Well – general masses – our hero, Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) has been continuing the work of her father in looking for the Philosopher’s Stone and I can tell you it’s not in a school. It’s an object said to be the alchemistic miracle-in-a-bottle. I wonder if she thinks it’ll make her into a decent human being. Anyway, she tracks down its location to the catacombs below Paris. Scarlett is accompanied by a cameraman (the token black guy), an old love, and a group of catacomb guides. They all set out on their merry adventure.
But wait! That’s not all! It’s not a happy movie with a merry adventure. I lied! It is of course found-footage, which means a lot of people do a lot of stupid things while flailing the camera to the fro and shouting, but I’ll get to that.
Once in the catacombs our group discover a strange female cult, but passes them by, and that’s mostly the last we hear of them. A piece of the wall the fellowship needs to squeeze through collapses, which forces them to take another route. One of the guides tries to persuade their American leader about the alternate route’s danger. Not to mention the fact that anyone who enters is never heard from again. Of course the American’s don’t listen. Hell ensures. Literally. I mean when a doorway reads, “Omnem dimittite spem, o vos intrantes,” (abandon all hope, ye who enter here) then surely it’s a sign to turn back? No? Alright then.
To be honest the story is actually quite good, but has some terrible execution. As my co-movie-watching-person / permanent roommate pointed out it would have benefited from a still camera production. Unlike most found-footage movies we’re treated to different character perspectives thanks to head-mounted cameras. This at least gives some varied storytelling depending on whose footage we’re seeing. This didn’t help the ending, which I had to wiki to figure out what was going on. You’ll see what I mean.
Of course in horror movies there are the monsters. For once these abominations aren’t just our cast’s acting careers. We’re told a story of unsavoury goings on in the catacombs, which manifest themselves as a sort of personal hell for each person. Again this isn’t too clear until later on in the plot, where we’re also introduced to monsters that don’t seem to have a purpose. Seriously, our main character punches some stone golem things in the face. Three times. In the face. Do demons of hell not learn to step aside when someone runs by for the third time? No? Alright then.
In a strange way As Above, So Below is a pseudo take on the Divine Comedy, or at least I like to think so. It could have been a great movie if more love and care was put into it.
“But, Graham, is it worth a watch?” bored readers shout out in protest as they angrily hit their keyboards.
tl;dr: Yes, it’s worth a rent.