It’s like Indiana Jones had a baby with the Blair Witch.
“As Above, So Below” is the latest horror found footage movie to creep it’s way into the multiplex. This one focuses on a treasure hunting gal, taking on the quest of her father to find the elusive “philosopher’s stone”. But once in the famous catacombs under the city of Paris, things start to get mysteriously out of control. All of this of course, is caught by the many cameras of the documentarian that is with them, because really, in this day and age, apparently horror movie and found footage film are practically synonymous. And here’s the shame of it, I think there is a really good movie hiding underneath here.
First off, I love these characters. Shout outs to Perdita Weeks and Ben Feldmen, our primary leads, for actually breathing some fun and life into a genre whose leads often just play out of their element prop pieces for a greater power. Here you get a sense that these two are smart, fun, and most of all, worth rooting for. Plus, in the movie math of “Paranormal Activity” meets “National Treasure” I found the problem solving aspect of the National Treasure stuff to be quite engaging. I also think conceptually there are some interesting elements here that in the right hands could have played with deeper themes of regret, loss, and catharsis and given a real depth to a genre that is often content just to see if it can scare you rather than take the time to really move you. And yet all that potential is short circuited by the found footage disease that is plaguing hollywood horror. Seriously, it’s the ebola of the industry.
Not that I’m usually a horror movie guy anyway, but I love suspense and mystery. And there’s a real place for movies that deal with fear to tell us stories about our fear and how that impacts us, but this found footage nonsense has to stop. It just makes an otherwise intelligent and well acted film feel lazy and padded. I understand that there is something inherently creepy intense about seeing some of these images as if they were shot by the actors, and guess what, you can still use some of that stuff. There’s no reason you can’t make a legitimate movie and still include some “in film footage”. And that would have worked beautifully here. I truly believe if this movie had been tweaked to be a more prototypically shot and staged hollywood flick, there might have been something really interesting and fun here, where the camera and shot selection was allowed to be part of the story telling, instead of a forced gimmick that by the end is distracting and almost laughable.
Overall, “As Above So Below” is a frustrating waste of good performances and interesting content, brutally sacrificed to the “found footage” gods of the modern horror film. Even some clever problem solving isn’t enough for this one to survive as more than a C.