Hello there everyone! I have been somewhat quiet the last week or two, largely because I went on a trip to Paris. This is not purely to boast about my travels; I visited the Catacombs while there so I opted to watch this on my return because it’s based almost entirely in them. I read terrible reviews when it first came out & thought the nostalgia might at least make it bearable.
Yet another entry into the found footage genre (I seem to be watching a lot of them lately, this is genuinely not a conscious decision), As Above, So Below opens on Scarlett, a female version of indiana Jones, sneaking into a strictly off-limits abandoned Iranian mine where she believes her late father had pinpointed the location of a terribly important undiscovered artifact that might lead her one step closer to his life goal of finding the Philosopher’s Stone (spoiler: it was found in Hogwarts like 20 years ago). She does indeed find the Rose Stone but barely makes it out alive as it just so happens to be the day the government have decided to blow up the dangerous passageways once and for all. She winds up in Paris where, unable to decipher some ancient text, she must reunite with her ex whom she abandoned in a Turkish Prison, and who spends his spare time breaking into old churches and fixing the clock mechanisms. With Benji making a documentary about her expedition the three go around Parisian landmarks looking for clues & solving tricksy puzzles like a photorealistic Professor Layton game. It’s absolutely ridiculous, I actually had to pause the film at one point because I was crying with laughter as the characters intuitively solve centuries, but it moves with such pace; like a true adventure B-Movie it doesn’t feel the need to apologise for being so silly; and the cast do a great job at conveying the eccentric & likeable characters that it’s incredibly fun.
All the bonkers running around Paris inevitably leads them to venture into the Catacombs, under the guidance of Papillon & his friends who have unprecedented knowledge of the passages, apparently because all the young attractive characters don’t need jobs to support their expensive hobbies. It’s impressive to note that all the underground scenes were actually filmed in the Catacombs beneath Paris, which were filled with the bones of 6 million residents a few hundred years ago due to overflowing graveyards. It goes without saying that this lends an authenticity to the film and the labyrinthine corridors’ eerie quality & gruesome residents make it perfect for a horror movie setting. Some ‘odd’ events are the worst that happen however, with the Scooby Gang’s treasure hunt taking centre stage. I was happily swept away by it, but did realise after an hour that I’d forgotten this was meant to be a horror movie. Luckily the writers seemed to realise the same thing, because the final act has some genuinely creepy and surprising moments & brings the movie to a great climax. Unusually some heartfelt themes are also evident in this final act, raising it above much of the found footage dross out there.
If you go into this expecting a start-to-finish scare-fest as the marketing suggests you may well be disappointed, because it’s much more a found-footage adventure movie for the first two-thirds, turning into a horror towards the end. I think it would have been much more clever to market it as such, with the horror “twist” being a surprise rather than an overdue expectation. As it stands, it’s hard to defend much of the silliness, but I personally found it incredibly enjoyable & would happily watch it again as it is great fun, with some decent scares thrown in for good measure. Surely even the most hardened horror buff can have some fun occasionally?