MOVIE REVIEW: “As Above/So Below” is a long way down

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“As Above/So Below” (Photo courtesy of movie’s website)

“Found footage” horror films are dead; they have been since “Paranormal Activity 3,” and nothing has ever come along to convince me otherwise, until now.

“As Above/So Below” has the prime component of a disappointing horror film, promise, but in a shocking twist, this film delivers what it sets up in gleefully terrifying fashion. Rather than following a generic Caucasian couple setting up cameras to prove that “paranormal phenomena” is occurring in their home, “As Above/So Below” feels authentic in its use of handheld cameras due to its setting and plot, rather than using it as a shameless gimmick.

Scarlett Marlowe (played by a wonderful Perdita Weeks), is an archaeologist whom we meet during her expedition to find the Philosopher’s Stone, an artifact believed to be able to turn metals into gold and grant immortality. Marlowe will do anything to find this stone, as to restore her father’s reputation after he committed suicide searching for the stone. Scarlett believes that the stone is located deep within the catacombs of Paris, and brings along partner George (Ben Feldman), documentary filmmaker Benji (“The Purge”’s Edwin Hodge) and local urban explorers who can get them to restricted sectors of the catacombs. This soon spirals into chaos when each explorer is presented with hallucinations of their own fears and transgressions, and soon are hunted by the supernatural and demonic forces that lie with the 6 million corpses underneath Paris.

The use of handheld and helmet cameras in this film accentuates the film’s claustrophobic atmosphere that brings the terror that much closer to the audience, and while it does get a little headache-inducing as per usual, it’s almost always very engaging. Acting is exceptional by horror movie standards, with Weeks leading the pack to create a sympathetic, intelligent and charming protagonist, and Feldman close behind with his geeky, adorable sidekick, who is slightly less interesting as his female counterpart. The screenplay, penned by director John Erick Dowdle and his brother Drew Dowdle, is profound, well-paced and only contains one line of truly terrible dialogue, which is a shame as it sticks out much more than it would have in a mediocre screenplay. Though the true star of the film comes with its setting, the usage of the catacombs was unique and interesting, providing the film with more lore and history than one might expect from a modern horror film.

“As Above/So Below” simply put, is the best horror film since “Oculus,” which isn’t a small accomplishment in my book. It uses its atmosphere exceptionally, and keeps the audience engaged through its tension, pacing and visuals. Weeks is fantastic as Scarlett Marlowe, mirroring Karen Gillan’s spectacular performance in this year’s horror film “Oculus.”

This film also uses the “found footage” genre effectively for the first time since the original Paranormal Activity, rather than using it for shock value, it enhanced the confined feel of the film. The film’s literal elements of claustrophobia and past misdeeds are almost as effectively frightening as its supernatural and demonic elements, which can hopefully spark conversations after the movie has ended, apart from raving about how frightening the film was.

 4/5

Directed by: John Erick Dowdle

Starring: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge and François Civil.

Runtime: 93 minutes

Rating: R for bloody violence/terror and language throughout.

Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures present, a Legendary Pictures/Brothers Dowdle production, As Above/So Below

Read more here: http://nineronline.com/2014/09/movie-review-as-aboveso-below-is-a-long-way-down/
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