As Above, So Below (2014)
Directed and written by John Erick Dowdle
I have to admit I have some claustrophobia concerning tight closed-in spaces. I was at one time plagued by nightmares where I was crawling through a tight, dirt tunnel and the tunnel ahead kept getting smaller and tighter until I could barely move. In this film there’s a scene where the character, Ben, gets stuck in one such tunnel and the more he struggles, the more the tunnel collapses on him. You can see the desperation and panic in his face and in his actions. This scene was so well done it was excruciating for me. I squirmed in my seat and cringed. I screamed at him to remove his belt to free himself.
Let’s back up a little. As Above, So Below is a Found Footage film with a bit of a twist, there are survivors in the end, which was a nice difference. It looked pretty grim at times and I didn’t think anyone would actually survive. The film concerns an urban archaeologist, Scarlet, who is desperate to solve a riddle concerning Aramaic texts that hold some alchemist’s secret of life. Scarlet takes increasingly risky chances following a trail of clues. It seems her father had committed suicide after trying to solve the same riddle and she has vowed to solve the problem in his name.
The trail leads her and a small crew, choreographer, Ben, and love interest, George, to the catacombs of France. She hires an outlaw guide and his crew with the promise of hidden treasure in a secret room as yet undiscovered by modern archaeologists. They follow a jigsaw of ancient maps and texts deeper into the earth, eventually leading them to a pathway marked ‘the gates of hell.’ (Those who enter, abandoned all hope). A collapse behind them forces the crew forward and some strange apparitions and occurrences plague them. There are some mighty chilling scenes here, enjoyable for a horror fan like me. In fact the scares were so well paced and executed that I was smiling in between the scenes. Aside from the paranormal chills, there were also the real life horrors of being in underground caves; the confined spaces, the feeling of being lost, the paranoia of the surroundings, and underwater tunnels (gasp), all portrayed for maximum effectiveness.
While the ending was not as satisfying as I would have liked, I enjoyed the journey immensely. The characters were quite likable and empathetic. I look forward to seeing more from director, John Erick Dowdle, who has previously written and/or directed great horror flicks like, Quarantine, Devil, and The Poughkeepsie Tapes. While some may be turned off by the Found Footage style I think it serves this film well.
A well-paced and interesting horror found footage film that dishes out many original chills and thrills, with both psychological horror and physical horror aspects combined.
I give it 4.1 creepy quagmires out of 5 on the crawling through claustrophobic catacombs capers.
The term ‘as above so below’ is part of Hermatic theory and philosophy. It states that, As in heaven, so on earth – meaning if you think good thoughts, good will follow, if you think bad thoughts, evil will follow. Whatever we think or accept will be the circumstances of our lives.
The hexagram symbol in the movie is used by Satanists and black witches to both, call a demon forward or to keep it at bay. In other instances it is symbolic to create balance in life.
The Catacombs of Paris is an underground grave site which contains the remains of approximately Six Million people, many of which were relocated from existing Parisian cemeteries at the time it was conceived (1782). Underground mines which were no longer used for their original purpose became the housing for the overcrowded Paris cemeteries. The head of the Paris Mine inspection service in 1810 took it upon himself to make the mere housing of the bones into a mausoleum of sorts, stacking skulls and bones in a way that was artistic in some senses. He also used old artifacts and fountains from the original cemeteries to make it a visitable burial place.
I also really enjoyed this movie, well made and fairly creepy. The performances were all surprisingly good as well, especially the lead.
i liked this movie all right- the scene i remember most was when one of the guys got killed in the burning car, the car imploded w/ him inside and it left him with just his feet sticking out of the ground. i feel like i had read about a scene like this somewhere in mythology history. a field of legs sticking out of the ground like that- it was a spooky scene. did this guy direct quarantine too? the scene i liked most there was when the camera guy bludgeoned one of the zombies with his actual camera, while it was filming. high art!!
Yeah, I agree, there were some original ideas and horrific scenes in the film. Yes, ‘Dowdle’ did direct Quarantine. 🙂
Excellent post – but – because of your first paragraph I doubt I’ll ever watch this….
The only way to overcome your fears are to face them…and if you can do it in a movie rather than real life, all the better. 🙂 There’s also a scene where they know they have to get to the next chamber. All that’s in the room they are at is a hole in the ground filled with water. They have to swim through this tight space to get into the next room. Now they have 3 of my greatest fears, suffocation, claustrophobia and drowning… I needed oxygen after that scene cause I held my breath the whole time, 😀
uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh I almost died during that tunnel scene in The Descent,…..
Well, for some reason the scenes in The Descent didn’t make me nearly as uncomfortable as the scenes in this – a testament to the way this was shot. The scene I described in the first paragraph of the reveiw…oh boy, i actually got up from the couch and paced around until the character got out of that tunnel.
I can’t watch that!!
I hear ya’ – but I must say, it was fun…afterwards, in a ‘holy shit that was crazy’ way… However, If someone told me that scene was going to be in the movie, I probably wouldn’t have watched it either.
I loved this film. I hate tight confined spaces like that and will never go there myself, but love watching it in a film and the sheer insanity of what happens there. Easily a film I could watch again.
I agree, I would watch it again 🙂
I may have to give this one a re-watch. Didn’t do anything for me. I didn’t even know what the hell was going on. Maybe I was just not in the moment with this film. The ending was pretty neat though. I may understand it a bit better down the line. Good work, Mike. Dig the pics.
All the story is in the dialogue, and there’s a lot of it in this film, lol 🙂
Yeah, I disliked the ending very much…even though it was very cool and creative when viewed entirely separately from the rest of the film. Otherwise, agreed, a good horror journey with likable characters. Good review.
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