AS ABOVE, SO BELOW

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MOVIE REVIEW: AS ABOVE, SO BELOW / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOHN ERICK DOWDLE / SCREENPLAY: DREW DOWDLE, JOHN ERICK DOWDLE / STARRING: PERDITA WEEKS, BEN FELDMAN, EDWIN HODGE, FRANÇOIS CIVIL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

As Above, So Below takes us deep below the cosmopolitan streets of Paris, down to the mysterious, shadowy network of caverns and catacombs which crisscross beneath the city, home to the bony remains of six million luckless souls. Brainbox alchemy student Scarlett Marlowe (Weeks) leads a team of fearless (and fearful) explorers down into the tombs in search of the mythical ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ which can turn base metal into gold and grant eternal life. Inevitably, they find themselves trapped and lost in the subterranean tunnels and, just to make matters worse, things start to get a bit supernatural. Luckily, they have fantastic HD cameras set into their head-torches so they can record everything that happens in pinpoint graphic detail…

Yes, we’re in ‘found footage’ territory again - although for once there’s no flimsy narrative conceit attempting to convince us that what we’re watching is ‘based on  real events’ and all that’s left of our brave heroes is their cameras and the footage they’ve all been assiduously recording. As Above, So Below is a cut above many straight-to-DVD ‘found footage’ efforts purely by virtue of the fact that it is, at least, trying to do something a little bit different. In places it manages to evoke an uncomfortable sense of claustrophobia as Scarlett and her gang squeeze through tight rock crevasses, wade through narrow water-logged tunnels and find themselves apparently trapped in sealed chambers. Quick, someone open a window…

But where the film manages to play on our fear of confined spaces and airless rooms it’s less successful in generating horror heebeegeebees. Frantic shaky cam makes it hard to work out who’s who and what’s what and the concept of the catacombs recreating terrors and traumas from the gang’s past doesn’t amount to much more than a ringing telephone and a clunking piano. Desperate to up the scare factor, the last act turns into a fairground haunted house runaround. Scarlett and co are dashing through the tunnels which suddenly go mental; white-faced robed figures wander by, faces loom out of the walls and the air is suddenly full of disembodied wailing voices chorusing ‘woooooh’. We wouldn’t have been too surprised to see a couple of extras with white sheets draped over them loom out of the shadows as a plastic spider hanging on a wire drops from the ceiling. A quick cameo from Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster would have rounded things off nicely…

In truth As Above isn’t that bad but it does go wildly off the rails in its rush for the exit. There are some good ideas here and there in amongst the hokum but the needs of the ‘found footage’ gimmick inevitably leads to too much unfocused running about and screaming at nothing very frightening and not enough time spent generating any real tension or full-blooded scares.

Expected rating: 6 out of 10

Actual rating:


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