As Above, So Below
It’s been a pretty busy week so the column might be a little shorter than usual. I’ve got some stuff for the future percolating already and that has been taking up a bit more of my time than expected. It will all be worth it once we get there so don’t worry dear readers; I am not forsaking you.
I did get to watch a movie this weekend that’s been getting drug over the coals by the critics. It’s a cool little horror movie called As Above, So Below which is directed by John Erick Dowdle, who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother, Drew Dowdle. Not sure why the animosity from the critics, but here’s my take.
Going in to As Above, So Below, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. It uses the found footage motif (although found by who is never made clear) and the previews certainly made it seem similar to The Descent. I’m not the biggest fan of the found footage genre, with the exception of The Blair Witch Project, but I am a rather big fan of The Descent. So with the odds at 50/50, the hottie and I took a chance on As Above, So Below, and we were surprised at how entertaining it really is.
Perdita Week plays Scarlet, a woman in search of the Philosopher’s Stone, a stone said to have mythical healing powers and the ability to turn fine metals into gold. Scarlet’s father had been searching for it for years before his death and now Scarlet is attempting to find it to cement his legacy. Scarlet’s friend Benji, played by Edwin Hodge, is filming a documentary about the search and his footage provides the narrative base for most of the film.
The opening scenes are of Scarlet filming herself sneaking into Iran to look for a clue. She eventually finds what she is looking for but a cave-in sends her out a bit sooner than expected. The clue in Iran leads her to Paris where she, Benji, and her former colleague George (played by Ben Feldman of Mad Men) eventually come to the conclusion that the stone is in the catacombs underneath Paris. This offers up some issues though because it appears that the stone is in a part of the underground not open to the public. The trio eventually finds a group of urban spelunkers (my terminology, not theirs), played by François Civil, Marion Lambert, and Ali Marhyar. The spelunkers help get them into the off-limits section of the catacombs, and then the real fun begins.
If you are expecting a by the numbers horror movie from this point on, you are only partially right. There are some really good jump scares throughout along with immense claustrophobia that had me creeped out the whole time, but As Above, So Below takes the high road when it comes to gore and nudity, and that’s actually kind of refreshing. It’s not that I don’t like a good slasher movie as much as the next guy (go read my review of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 if you’re unsure of my feelings on the genre), but it’s good to see a horror movie done in the old school format of what you don’t see is as important as what you do, not to mention that the film has a female protagonist who isn’t dumb and/or a victim. Scarlet is a strong character who doesn’t need saving (much like the women in The Descent) so the movie deserves high marks for breaking from horror conventions. I’m not really going to delve any further into the plot since the film is a new release but suffice it say, things don’t really go as planned.
As Above, So Below is a nice mixture of adventure and horror. It’s almost like an Indiana Jones quest that goes way wrong and that’s a pretty neat concept. Is it as good as The Descent? In some ways yes, and in some ways no. The Descent is probably a little more claustrophobic and creepy, but As Above, So Below has characters that are easier to like and a much better ending and overall tone than The Descent. The bat-people in The Descent were always kind of a let down after the build-up whereas the rogue’s gallery in As Above, So Below are a lot harder to pin down and are better off for it.
All in all, I highly recommend As Above, So Below. If you are a fan of horror movies you will like it, and you might enjoy it even if you’re not. It’s a weird blending of genres that works really well and I was surprised by how good it is.
Until next time…