ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, SEPT. 1, 2014
I’ve seen plenty of shaky-cam fright flicks since The Blair Witch Project jittered its way to horror fame back in ’99, but the ultra-jittery As Above/So Below really pushes the limits of what any reasonable found-footage fan can take. It’s a real shame, too, because director John Erick Dowdle–whose credits include 2008’s muddled Quarantine and 2010’s effective Devil—creates moments that recall the claustrophobic terror of the awesome spelunking epic The Descent.
The movie opens with reckless archaeologist Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) filming herself traveling into Iran on an admittedly risky adventure that she hopes will eventually lead her to the mythical Philosopher Stone. She manages to secure footage of writings on a hidden statue and escape just before it’s demolished, then gets the message translated by her old beau George (Ben Feldman), a fellow thrill-seeker who gets his kicks breaking into old churches and repairing their ancient bells.
More covert investigation in a Paris museum leads Scarlett to believe the prize lies beneath the city in the catacombs, but since George’s previous foray with Scarlett led to jail time in Turkey, he’s wary of getting in too deep. But he still finds himself–along with documentarian Benji (Edwin Hodge) and three enthusiastic locals–heading underground with video cameras conveniently strapped to everyone’s foreheads.
All manner of spooky occurences plague the group as they delve deeper and deeper into the mazelike catacombs, driven by Scarlett’s obsessive quest. Even that old warning from the gates of hell–“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”–doesn’t phase them much.
All the crawling over human bones and descending into dark holes and swimming under walls gets a tad monotonous, though, and by the time the truly freaky stuff starts happening you might wonder if it was all worth the wait–not to mention the pounding shaky-cam headache.