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As Above, So Below (R)
Film Reviews

09/04/14
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



 As Above, So Below (R)

A scholar seeking an alchemy stone drags a bunch of victims down to the catacombs of Paris for her search in As Above, So Below, a horror movie, of sorts, that seems aimed specifically at people who don’t like cramped spaces. 

Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) is a scholar of history and chemistry and languages and whatnot who is obsessed with finding the Philosopher’s Stone — no, not the U.K. version of the first Harry Potter book, but the magical alchemy rock that can turn regular metal into gold and sick people into healthy people and, apparently, dead people into dead people who don’t rot. So, it’s useful for all sorts of things! Which is why Scarlett is willing to risk life and limb (hanging around in an Iranian cave moments before it’s scheduled for demolition, for example, as she does in the movie’s opening scenes) to find it. One thing Scarlett can’tdo all by herself is read Aramaic, so she gets fellow history nerd/ex-boyfriend George (Ben Feldman, best known as either nipple-slicing Michael Ginsberg from Mad Men or angel Fred from Drop Dead Diva, depending on how you roll) to join her and camera man Benji (Edwin Hodge) on a trip to the catacombs inParis to search for ... well, long story, but let’s just say search for the stone. (With these endeavors, it’s always searching for this guy’s tomb to find a clue to that thing to find a chamber of secrets where there will be, like, a goblet of fire.) To help her navigate the catacombs themselves, particularly the closed-to-the-public sections that she needs to illegally riffle through, she gets Papillon (Françios Civil) and his team Souxie (Marion Lambert) and Zed (Ali Marhyar). 
 
Scarlett dreams of finding the stone, George reluctantly follows Scarlett, and Papillon and his redshirt gang are hoping for big treasure. But all soon find themselves in trouble as the twisty nature of the catacombs and the ominous inscriptions suggest that there’s something more than bones and historical trinkets below Paris.
 
Specifically, some of the catacombs are evil, as a character tells us straight up. Why? Because. Also, we have no choice but to go forward into the evil catacomb. Why? Because. This movie, which spends plenty of time trying to explain the history of alchemy, doesn’t actually bother with a lot of mythology when it comes to the setting where most of the movie takes place. 
 
National Treasure plus The Da Vinci Code plus The Descent minus any of the things that made any of those preceding movies any fun at all: that’s pretty much the math of As Above, So Below. And each of those aforementioned movies did have elements of fun — as could have this movie. There’s something kind of goofy about a horror movie that starts out basically as a hipster Goonies. I believe there was a way, at some point, that smarter writing could have made this movie something more than the shaky cam with occasional jump-scare that it turned into. (Like a sweater trotted out for yet another season, years after it has gone out of fashion, As Above, So Below clings to the “found footage” gimmick for no good reason and with no particularly interesting results.)
 
As Above, So Below ends on kind of a funny (unintentionally funny) note — the equivalent of an “oh well, shrug” response to everything that’s come before. But the joke is really more on us, those who sat through the movie, than it is some bit of cleverness on the part of the film. D
 
Rated R for bloody violence/terror, and language throughout. Directed by John Erick Dowdle with a screenplay by Drew Dowdle and John Erick Dowdle, As Above, So Below is an hour and 33 minutes long and is distributed by Universal Pictures. 
 





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