Starring: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge
Archaeologist Dr. Scarlett Marlowe (Weeks) has devoted her life to taking over from her late father in finding Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone; One of history’s greatest treasures. When she learns that it may be hidden in the Catacombs of Paris, Scarlett assembles a crew of local guides, a fellow expert and a documentary filmmaker to join her on her mission. However as go deeper into the catacombs they enter their own personal hell.
From what was initially a gimmick that though admittedly had an element of novelty value, the amount of found footage films that seem to be released these days’ means it is pretty much becoming a genre in its own right. Just to clarify, some seem to understand found footage as meaning literally (i.e., footage taken by the film’s now dead characters that has been found), while my definition is simply a film where the characters in the narrative are filming themselves or being filmed by someone else either as the narrative goes along or indeed as a framed narrative.
Unfortunately the emergence of the style has meant films like End of Watch and Into the Storm just took the biscuit with the use of found footage at their convenience, but also with it came creaky narrative contrivances and lazy writing meaning that these films would have benefitted from not going down the found footage route at all. Admittedly As Above, So Below sticks with the basics and we simply have each character with a camera on their helmets while one member of the group carries a camera around because the main character (conveniently) wants her expedition filmed.
I am not sure of the budget for As Above, So Below and so as much I appreciate that budget constraints mean that making a film in the found footage style allows the filmmakers to work within these budget constraints with far greater ease, it also allows them to be extremely lazy with the script. All dialogue, particularly exposition dialogue is automatically allowed to be clunky and obvious as, because this is found footage it is ‘naturalistic’. Or maybe it is just pure laziness. Well considering the ridiculously contrived characters in As Above, so Below, I would say that writer/ director John Erick Dowdle and co-writer Drew Dowdle are just complacent and lazy.
Possible budget constraints aside, the found footage element of As Above, So Below adds bugger all to the atmosphere or engagement with the film. With The Descent Neil Marshall proved that you can create a sense of genuine claustrophobia and terror and not be a found footage film and I think that As Above, So Below, with good camerawork and cinematography would have executed the sense of claustrophobia and terror that it tries to achieve far more effectively if it were not a found footage film.
Leaving aside the debate of the stylistic of merits of whether to be or not to be found footage; unless As Above, So Below had a major script overhaul it would still be pretty rubbish. The narrative starts off hideously conventional and though does have some potentially interesting and effective ideas and concepts, just descends into absolutely boring drivel. The filmmakers are quite happy to just stick to the conventions and there are no attempts whatsoever to utilise the narrative’s potential to go to some genuinely dark and disturbing places and there is a real feeling that the makers just made it up as they went along with no real narrative coherence. As Above, So Below is not scary, not entertaining and not involving, it is simply boring and frustrating (and occasionally unintentionally funny).
Despite a good concept, the filmmakers total lack of ambition or creativity means As Above, So Below starts off conventional and then descends into boring drivel that is 90 minutes of your life wasted.