There is nothing scarier than the unknown; what you can’t explain or what has not yet been discovered. That is why haunted houses and mazes are so frightening. You enter into a dark space with strange noises, not knowing what awaits you just around the corner. Those elements of surprise are what make the film “As Above/So Below” a success in nail-biting entertainment. Yes, it’s yet another horror movie shot ‘found footage’ style, but the shaky camera work is necessary in order for the audience to be taken on this hair-raising trek.
Written by brother duo, Drew Dowdle (Quarantine) and John Erick Dowdle (Devil), the story immediately thrusts you into the adventurous life of the academically gifted Scarlett (Perdita Weeks). She is following in her father’s footsteps, in search of unraveling an Egyptian riddle which lies beneath the streets of Paris. Her daredevil ways somehow convince a handful of people to join her in the illegal and extremely dangerous expedition: a cameraman (Edwin Hodge), her trusty love-interest and script translator (Ben Feldman), and three Parisians who will help guide the way through the twisted maze of catacombs.
As all found footage horror films go, Scarlett’s plan to discover some hidden treasure eventually takes a turn for the worse. All hell breaks loose. Although it takes a good part of the film until anything completely bone-chilling occurs, the suspense is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, or even a hand over one eye. The direction (John Erick Dowdle) and editing gives the sense of claustrophobia and panic. Scarlett and her followers crawl, fall, climb and run through bone covered caves searching for a way out of the catacombs. Once a little ‘and then there were two’ game takes place, the real darkness takes over. With all of the wait, the things that go bump in the dark and reach out around the bend are slightly disappointing. Dowdle could have stood to add more gore and demon revealing. After all, each camera on the character’s flashlight helmets caught every second.
British actress, Perdita Weeks is fairly new onto the American film scene. She’s perfectly cast as the astute book smart go-getter turned bad-ass zombie skeleton killer. The on-screen chemistry works quite well between Weeks and up and coming actor, Ben Feldman (Mad Men, A-Z). His nervous character, George is the easiest one to sympathize with. Of course, the cameraman is always the hesitant scaredy cat when it comes to any horror movie. Edwin Hodge is a fine camera guy. Amongst the three French actors, Francois Civil (Rosemary’s Baby) stands out as the unorthodox catacombs tour guide, Papillon. He is certainly the comic relief throughout.
For a late summer release, when most tend to disappoint, “As Above/So Below” does the trick and delivers what most ask of any horror film: scary and a little silly.
By Pamela Price