Friday, December 12, 2014

As Above, So Below

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! It's pretty amazing how the supernatural elements in films like this don't just stop the cameras from recording all together.

As Above, So Below – 2 out of 5

When the trailer for this one came out, my first thought was that this was just another generic “found footage” film that was, realistically, going to be no different than the hundreds of other ones that have been released.  However, I was a little surprised to find myself thinking that this film actually had a decent story working for it and actually held some real potential to be a great film…so, what went wrong?

It's not a spoiler to say he dies.  Some horror film clich├ęs won't go matter
what year it is.

Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) is a young alchemy scholar and she is out to find a special stone that her father died trying to find.  Somewhere deep in the catacombs of France, among all the bones and underneath the streets, lies the philosopher’s stone—a stone that can turn lead to gold and grant eternal life.  With the determination of Indiana Jones out to stop Nazis from getting such power, Scarlett enlists the help of a former love named George (Ben Feldman) and a group of French residents that are extremely knowledgeable of the catacombs.  However, once she finds what she is looking for, Scarlett is horrified to discover that the group may have stumbled upon the gates of Hell.

"I'm excited to toy with things I don't understand!"

I admit I had very low expectations going into As Above, So Below but was thrown back by how much I was getting into the story.  The concept of the group Tomb Raider-ing their asses accidentally into Hell while on a mission to collect an ancient stone was actually kinda cool and the actors who made up the cast were very excellent and did their jobs well.  Additionally, it was neat that this production was the first to get permission to film in the catacombs and that locale is both interesting and creepy as shit.  There were only two things that really held the film back for me.

I would say those glasses held the film back but that would be a lie.
That shit is steampunk as hell!

Good thing they got the devilishly handsome Frenchman
who has intricate knowledge of the catacombs and not
some fugly turd.
First off, the ending is very lackluster and anticlimactic.  The film just kinda squirts out its ending and, even worse, it ends on an uplifting, positive note.  As Above, So Below could have left such a bigger impact had the film ended the way most horror films should end; on a negative note.  Without giving away too much, had the group doomed themselves to an eternity in Hell, there would have been some intrigue and interest at the end but, with the survival ending, I was left saying, “That’s it?”  It felt empty and like it was tacked on after test audiences complained.  Of course, this would have left a gigantic plot hole with the next element that I felt bruised the film...

"This stone should heal you...shit, this isn't the right stone.  This is a kidney stone."

Man, who would have thought that exploring around an
area where so many bodies were buried would have
ended so badly?
Finally, the last thing that really hurt the film (and I mean hurt it badly) was the “found footage” element.  Way too often horror films tack on this gimmick thinking it will make the film scarier but too often it just takes me out of the action.  It’s impossible to find fear, care for the survival of the characters (even though I wanted them all to be doomed to the underworld), or even see what the fuck is going on when you are bombarded with spinning cameras and needlessly added video interference.  Too much of As Above, So Below’s visual narrative is interrupted by camera play and it made it almost impossible to tell what the living hell was going on a lot of the times.  While some viewers may find this element in all “found footage” films to be what makes them more realistic than your average horror film and more engrossing, I find them to be tedious and elements of annoyance that hurt the overall presentation and unfolding story and plot.  As Above, So Below did this a lot worse than most “found footage” films and it made for a great many scenes to be incomprehensible messes that can only be interpreted thanks to conveniently placed dialogue that immediately follows the car wreck.  It ends up taking away from not only the story but from a lot of potentially terrifying scenes that end up just being pointless jump scares.

Okay...that is a bit creepy.  I give the film that.

Well...he did say he'd be right down...
I'll be here all week!
However, despite this, I can’t deny the things this film did right and the potential it had to be a truly fantastic horror film.  I already stated the acting is really good and the story is very interesting but one thing that really stood out to me what the sound editing.  Not only are the sounds from the underground and the unearthly and ghoulish noises that compose the soundtrack easily creating a breeding ground for tension and chills but also proved to be the only working element of the “found footage” gimmick.  There’s a single scene where the sound becomes mottled and stuffy and the characters are clueless to what is going on.  It sounds great and it initially makes you think that the camera’s microphone is fucking up and, most of all, the scene works quite well.  Ultimately, however, it proves to be the only scene that justifies the use of “found footage” and the effect could have probably worked just as well without the attachment of this gimmick.

Scary woman in the film or a dead-eyed audience member who just walked out
from seeing the film?

While I liked As Above, So Below, I was also greatly, greatly disappointed with it.  It had all the potential to be an absolutely amazing horror film that could have made great use of its premise to craft chilling scares but, instead, it settled on being a run-of-the-mill, generic horror film that is almost completely indistinguishable from the other crap “found footage” films that get churned out every year.  It’s really time to retire this gimmick and get back to proper horror film movie-making.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I have a few more, and I promise I will leave you alone. I just love your reviews:

    To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
    Almost Famous (2000)
    Adaptation (2002)
    Being John Malkovich (1999)
    Mystic River (2003)
    Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
    Up in the Air (2009)
    Monster (2003)
    Boiler Room (2000)
    Ballast (2008)
    Hamlet (2000)
    Down to You (2000) (Try not to hang yourself watching this movie.)

  3. Not even joking about the Down to You comment. You will feel ashamed of being a man after watching it.


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