As Above So Below
This film follows a group of renegade explorers as they dive into the Paris catacombs looking for buried Alchemist treasure. It’s a creepy movie that plays on the extraordinary claustrophobia of underground spaces, and makes excellent use of the first-person camera genre (though it never proposes the means by which the audience came to see this footage). A few thoughts:
- I wish screenwriters would look up the name of another Alchemist. Nicholas Flammel is probably sitting somewhere right now scowling at the way he gets brought up over and over again.
- The first hour of this ninety-minute movie was great. It had a growing sense of dread and creepiness that really works well. The last thirty minutes, not as much.
- The film’s best points are its great use of the first person cameras. The limited view we get is excellent, and makes for a frightening experience as we try to understand what the people are seeing behind the person whose camera we’re using.
- The spiritual component of the film is interesting too — the idea that the movie makes the alchemist’s philosophy a key component of the story is great. There are some moments that are downright weird, but you come to understand why they happened the way they did. That said, the film isn’t as precise about the nature of the metaphysical haunting stuff as I’d like it to be. When they propose a ‘system’ for how things work, it feels to me like they should really work that way.
- This film reminded me a lot of The Descent, another excellent ‘trapped underground’ movie with an even weirder ending. (In 2007, here’s what I wrote about The Descent: “A surprisingly enjoyable horror movie that became startlingly LESS scary when the monsters showed up. Disasterous spelunking and solid character development don’t need hungry Gollums to spice things up. I haven’t felt such claustrophobia while watching a film since DAS BOOT.”) Both films figured out how to make being in an enclosed space scary, but didn’t figure out that they could leave out the creepy supernatural stuff. Being underground is scary enough.
Ultimately, As Above So Below is a fine B movie with a creepy premise and solid execution. It doesn’t really stick the landing, but you’ll enjoy the fall.
Here’s a trailer you can watch if you want to spoil literally every key plot point.