I have to admit that I don’t quite get all of the hate that horror fans have for studio films. What’s wrong with taking what you enjoy and making it look and sound better by putting tons of money behind it? I guess if you like the old, beat-up, grimy feel of the grindhouse flicks from decades ago, the hate kind of makes sense, but I feel bad for you if you are one of these fans who doesn’t see a film just because it is deemed ‘too mainstream’ by you and your friends. Sure, there are some pretty awful theatrically released films littered throughout the genre, but there are way more indie flicks that are just plain painful to sit through. This whole rant is really unnecessary, but it does lead me to something. That something is a nice little review for John Erick Dowdle most recent work, As Above, So Below.
Miles of twisting catacombs lie beneath the streets of Paris, the eternal home to countless souls. When a team of explorers ventures into the uncharted maze of bones, they uncover the dark secret that lies within this city of the dead. A journey into madness and terror, As Above, So Below reaches deep into the human psyche to reveal the personal demons that come back to haunt us all.
If you will, for a second, imagine what it would be like to take a story like The Da Vinci Code and mix it with genre greats like A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Descent, you might just be able to figure out how things unfold in As Above, So Below. Fantastic writing by the team of brothers, John Erick and Drew Dowdle, takes an ordinary found footage horror film to the next level. They not only introduce a story that you can really get into, but also a group of characters that you actually care about. There aren’t too many independent flicks that I’ve seen recently that I can say the same about… just check out my last few reviews and you’ll see what I mean.
As Above, So Below is as effective as you’re going to get in a film of this magnitude. It’s hard to actually be scared by any type of film these days, but if you take into consideration the amazingly crippling fear one could experience when underground and claustrophobic and throw in a bunch of strange, unexplainable occurrences, you have yourself one hell of a setting and plot. The team behind this one was really very good at utilizing their resources fully. Sticking a group of people in spaces too tight for one body is bad enough, but add in creepy singing cults, random rock creatures, and other hellish imagery, and you’ll be sure to scare every one in the theater at least once.
To go along with the wonderful storytelling, As Above also featured some very good performances. The entire cast of explorers was wonderful, from Perdita Weeks as Scarlett to Marion Lambert as Souxie. I felt invested in every character at least a little bit and it actually sucked to see the majority of them get picked off as the film progressed.
It is rare to have a big studio horror film really hit in all areas of filmmaking. Fortunately, it does happen from time to time and I feel that As Above, So Below is certainly one of those times. With a great story, damn good acting, cool cinematography, and impressive effects, you’ll definitely want to at least give this one a try, even if you didn’t plan on it originally. You can pick up a copy today on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital HD from Universal Studios.
I give this film 4.5 broken piano keys out of 5.