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New Release Review - As Above, So Below

An archaeologist searches for the mythical Philosopher's Stone in the catacombs of Paris.

Directed by: John Erick Dowdle
Starring: Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, Perdita Weeks, Francois Civil




Another week, another found footage horror movie. The genre has at this point become the default mode for filmmakers wishing to make a movie with limited means and budget. It papers over a lot of bad filmmaking cracks, as any amateurishness can be passed off as part of the reality based mise en scene. Lately, Hollywood's major studios have begun to exploit its dubious appeal in a completely unnecessary manner, given the means and budget provided to their filmmakers.
As Above, So Below is the latest found footage horror to come from a major studio, merely a week after Into the Storm. Like that movie, it plays fast and loose with its pretense, leaving us scratching our heads as to the presentation before our eyes. The first question we find ourselves pondering is just who has collected this footage, as during the course of the movie we see the cameras being left behind by the film's protagonists. Towards the climax it commits the cardinal sin of the found footage movie by presenting us with footage from angles that can't possibly be explained.
At this point audiences have to ask themselves whether they're willing to overlook such technicalities, or if filmmakers are intent on exploiting this gimmick should they be held accountable when they employ it in such a lazy and insulting manner?
In this case, there's no reason for presenting the story in this way; in fact, there's enough here to suggest that had this been filmed in a conventional manner, the result would be a quite effective little creepfest.
The story follows Scarlett (Weeks), the daughter of an archaeologist who took his life, who ventures into the catacombs below Paris in search of the mythical Philosopher's Stone, along with a rag tag crew of climbers and spelunkers, all of whom are fitted with miniature cameras on their headlights. The first half of the movie keeps us interested, mainly thanks to the performance of Weeks, who does a decent job of selling us the mix of history and mumbo-jumbo mythology that makes up the film's premise. 
The setting of Paris's famous catacombs, built to house the city's dead and now home to six million corpses, automatically adds a creepy atmosphere, and the movie succeeds initially by leaving things to our imagination and allowing us to half-glimpse images in the shadows. Towards the end, however, we enter crash, bang and wallop territory, and the movie begins to feel like a Youtube walk-through of a horror themed video game.
5/10
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