By: Da’Mon Guy
Horror films are one of the more beloved genres in the modern movie industry. Now more than ever before, film makers are looking for ways to re-invent the genre and find new ways to induce chills and thrills into their devout fans. Dating back to the 90’s, the unforeseen popularity of the Blair Witch Project allowed film makers a new way to deliver their stories to audiences. The Blair Witch Project assembled a very simple formula that has since been repeated in a number of films since its release. The use movie induced the usage of unknown actors and a reality like camera angle helped to re-invent the way the delivery of the story. This cost effective and highly successful ploy has helped the horror genre and spurn countless numbers of films in its mold. Apollo 28, Open Water, and Afflicted are just a few of the films who have come into existence over the years using the same mold.
As Above So Below is a disconcerting, spooky manifestation that entails a search for one of the mythical treasures of the earth, the philosophers stone. It’s a little known thriller that hit the theaters in relative anonymity in early 2014.The movie has good intensity in the early moments that is maintained throughout. It’s billed as a horror/suspense feel but it really has a Raiders of the Lost Ark/National Treasure feel to it. The film stars Perdita Weeks (Prowl), Ben Feldman (Cloverfield), Edwin Hodge (The Purge), and Francois Civil (Frank).
Synopsis: When a team of explorers ventures into the catacombs that lie beneath the streets of Paris, they uncover the dark secret that lies within this city of the dead.
The film has a really good theme that speaks to nearly everyone that takes the time to view it. As Above So Below is a journey into self-regret and sorrow that forces one to recognize your sins and inner demons. It’s a horror/suspense feel that has universal appeal. While the film may not have the best delivery to the story, it clearly has one of the more interesting and relatable themes in some time. It really grabs a hold of your intention almost immediately. The audience is sucked in and then you’re as intrigued by the quest for the Philosopher’s stone as the protagonist is. Its engulfing nature won’t allow you to turn away for the first 30-40 minutes. However, somewhere about the midpoint of the film, that grip begins to ease up and the film quickly falls to mediocrity.
One of the most glaringly noticeable aspects of this film is its choice for cinematography. The film is yet another to induce the first person camera angle in an effort to give this tale a fresher feel. It’s a way that is becoming more and more popular in recent film making. As Above So Below is told from the first person documentary style perspective that has worked for some film like Cloverfield or the Blair Witch Project but hampered others like Apollo 18 or Afflicted. Much like the division of success in those aforementioned films, this films choice of the perspective has mixed success. In the early stages it really puts you in the middle of the film even giving it an adrenaline inducing feel that preys on one’s natural fears. Conversely, the camera choice hurts the climax of the film. It has far too much rapid movement and quickly hampers the enjoyment of the film.
The film’s cast is comprised of mostly unknowns. It’s a formula that seems to go hand in hand. It’s been instituted in most of the films that uses the style of cinematography. The cast is led by Perdita Weeks who does an admirable job in her performance as Scarlett. Just as like most of the films that have attempted this style, it’s comprised of mostly unknowns or actors aren’t readily recognizable.
As Above So Below is a film that is surprisingly better than I expected. I was actually shocked how locked into it was for a good part of the movie. I think if it would have had a better camera choice then the film would have turned out significantly better. It’s creates a good level of tension and anticipation that is maintained throughout. It’s a film that in spite of its glaring shortcomings, you can still find a good level of enjoyment. For pure horror lovers, it may fall short, but for most everyone else the film will stir some stark tension within you.