‘As Above, So Below’ Is Actually Pretty “Descent” (Movie Review)

As Above So Below (Movie Review)There’s a funny story about this movie review.  Should I tell it to you?  I wrestle back and forth of whether I should or shouldn’t because it has nothing to do with the film itself, but oh what the hell.  I’m all for entertainment and having a good time.  Many months ago my Irish dancing friend, Gregg Senko, was sending me the same text over and over all day long in like fifteen minute intervals or something close to that.  It was real annoying because I was trying to focus at work.  The text simply read “As Above, So Below.”  Having never seen the trailer for this film I had no idea what he was talking about.  It was going on about six o’clock or so when we had just sat down for dinner and upon the arrival of yet another text I finally couldn’t take it anymore and I texted back as politely as possible something to the effect that I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.   He texted back and said it was a new movie.  That was it!  So weeks later we attended a screening for Dawn of the Apes or something like that at the Lakeline Alamo Drafthouse and I looked up as we were walking up to the front of the building and there was this red movie poster with the Eiffel Tower upside down and those unforgettable words As Above, So Below.  It was like someone through a brick and hit me in the head with it.  I stopped dead in my tracks.  My girlfriend was like what’s the matter with you.  I said look up.  There’s that movie Gregg was texting me about non-stop that one day.  We both must have looked like deer caught in headlights.

Coincidentally, several weeks later at a press screening for my Lucy movie review we were shown the trailer for As Above, So Below, only I did not know it yet until the end title crawl.  I was so engrossed in what was going on in the trailer that when the title flashed at the end that deer in a headlight look was back and I wanted to yell out “Hot damn!”  It looked great!  It reminded me of one of my favorite horror flicks in the 2000’s, The Descent.  So let’s set the record straight.  Anything that reminds me of The Descent automatically gets a watch in my book.  And so here we are.  It’s August 29th.  You know what that means?  Give me your phone number and I’ll text you!

As Above, So Below is billed as a found footage horror film.  Now ordinarily I hate these, but remember what I said “up above.”  Since the trailer reminded me so much of The Descent the whole found footage gimmick I normally dislike received a pass here.  Interestingly enough, this one’s also produced by Legendary Pictures, which I’m a big fan of, and is being distributed by Universal Pictures, making it the first film in Legendary’s deal with Universal.  So color me curious there.  Here’s a movie review I just had to overcome my fear of.

The film, set in the catacombs beneath Paris, France, is directed by John Erick Dowdle.  It’s also written by him and his brother Drew.  The cast, which in itself is nothing to write home about, includes Ben Feldman, Perdita Weeks, Edwin Hodge and Brian White.  Okay!  You got me!  I was kidding about the last name.  I was just doing my best to beef up and flesh out this lineup.

So if As Above, So Below did just one thing right, it’s that it brought the suspense and kept it real throughout.  It’s like if Jigsaw from the Saw movies said he wants to play a game, and he really meant it.  However, to accurately describe the movie I just saw is something else entirely.  It’s a walking nightmare like straight from the mind of Rob Zombie, but also a claustrophobic trap just like I thought it was going be, hence all my The Descent  comments up above.   Then again, there are Tomb Raider like video game moments to it as well as Indiana Jones archeological aspirations.  All of this and mind you it’s a found footage film too!  Can you believe it?  I can’t, but then again I saw it so it must be real because I’m not deep down in a cave or severely deprived of oxygen.

So like just about every found footage film, As Above, So Below cheats.  It’s not a true one-for-one take as this is how go down in the real world.  Instead we kind of follow camera-by-camera as each character who enters the catacombs is equipped with a helmet mounted camera.  However, when a character dies, then there goes their camera feed.  So how is this really found footage?  It’s not!  Honestly, I think would have enjoyed this movie even more if it wasn’t found footage, but that’s just me.  I prefer a straight narrative, but I can also appreciate how they showed the various point of view from all the characters, their fears, hidden secrets, etc.  That at least was all done well…as were those various underwater cameras and effects they employed throughout.

So remember when I talked about archeology and Tomb Raider up above?  Well, let’s just say the character of Scarlett (Weeks) is about as close as we have ever had onscreen, in my opinion, to a real life  version of the titillating Lara Croft.  I say that because A) it’s not a video game and B) Angelina Jolie is not Lara Croft!  Scarlett is determined to redeem her dead father’s legacy and succeed in uncovering a certain archeological secret where he had failed (no spoilers).   She also isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty as the body count around her rises, the poor people reluctantly along for the ride or foolishly thinking they were going to score some pirate treasure.

Now if I had to say our film did a second thing right, I would say it also delivered on the scares.  It was fun to be part of not only a captive audience on the edge of their seats at this press screening, but also one that screams and clings to their date’s arms.  I love that in a good horror movie!  It makes the movie going experience that much better in my opinion.  The filmmakers can rest assured in knowing they succeeded in if nothing else, bringing and engaging the fear.  While some scares are forced, many are genuine.  And who can argue that claustrophobia isn’t scary as hell too?  After my last MRI a year ago, I’ll never argue that.  I’m even freaked by too many blankets upon me now.  Like The Descent, there’s that one scene that just makes you fear ever being in a tight place ever again and I love it so!

In the long run, I enjoyed what I saw last night.  Would I ever want to visit again?  Sure I would, but there’s also no rush for me either.  As Above, So Below has some interesting mind-bending takes, but still manages to feel unoriginal at times too.  Had it been done from a straight narrative pace, camera-wse, I think I could have gotten into it a little more.  But for what it’s worth, I had a fun time with this one.  And when you’re talking about a late August horror film, having fun with a title like this is never a bad thing in my book.  As Above, So Below was a trippy good time that had me on the edge of my seat wondering where it was going to go.  While I had some problems with the characters, most notably which ones lived and died, the ending was pretty cool as it really came full circle with the events in the later two acts and of course, played off the cleverly twisted title (that is at least explained in the film).  If you’re a fan of the horror genre, and don’t mind the shaky cam found footage style of filmmaking, I’d recommend giving As Above, So Below a matinee screening this weekend.  No harm will come to you should you choose to partake, unless that movie patron sitting next to you slaps you in fear from a jump-out-of-your seat moment (there’s many in here).  You know who you are.  But then again, be a good sport!  That’s what seeing a good horror flick with a fun, captive audience is all about, right?


Check out the film’s trailer here: http://youtu.be/wVuv1Ey3oIM

As Above So Below (Movie Review) Poster



Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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