As Above, So Below
- Matthew Turner
- 27 August 2014
Atmospheric but inconsistent horror set in the Paris Catacombs starring Perdita Weeks
Taking the bulk of its cues from The Descent, director John Erick Dowdle's found footage horror adds a dash of The Da Vinci Code and seasons with some supernatural goings-on. The result is a suitably tense chiller that delivers the requisite shocks and scares, though slightly overplays its hand in the middle section.
Perdita Weeks stars as brilliant archaeologist-slash-adventurer Scarlett Marlowe (basically Lara Croft in looser clothing), who's come to the Paris Catacombs in search of Flanel's Philosopher's Stone, a legendary treasure, the pursuit of which drove her father to madness and suicide. She's joined in her quest by documentary filmmaker Benji (Edwin Hodge) and her old flame George (Mad Men's Ben Feldman), who's also a brilliant archaeologist, allowing the pair to bounce clues off each other in an entertaining fashion. After recruiting a team of underground explorers led by Papillon (François Civil), the adventurers descend into the Catacombs, but none of them are prepared for what they find there.
Making terrific use of the Catacombs themselves (it's the first ever production to receive permission to film in the off-limits sections), As Above, So Below is most successful when it's indulging in rapid-fire puzzle-solving (such as Scarlett and George unlocking a secret passage) and playing on good old-fashioned claustrophobia. When the supernatural stuff kicks in the film finds itself on less solid ground; bizarre events frequently occur, only to be completely forgotten by the following scene and never referred to again. That said, Dowdle cultivates an unsettling atmosphere, heightened by some extremely impressive sound design work.
Ultimately, despite a few silly moments, this is a pacy and suitably creepy horror enlivened by strong central performances from Weeks and Feldman, though you can't help feeling that the found footage element adds very little and could probably have been dropped.
General release from Fri 29 Aug.