2014, Movies

As Above, So Below (2014, John Erick Dowdle)

This is yet another found-footage horror film, number 300 and something at this point. (I have no idea whether that’s high or low.) When this was made, it was 15 years since Blair Witch. At some point, shouldn’t low-budget horror filmmakers realize this gimmick is a little tired?

The usual problems with found-footage films beset this one:

  • nobody ever stops filming,
  • whenever there is action,
  • it’s hard to follow,
  • every time the film or lights cut out, the audience is confused, not scared,
  • etc.

But that’s not really the problem with As Above, So Below. I mean, it’s a problem, but it’s a problem for all these types of movies and, when the rest of the movie is good, one can kind of, sort of forgive the problems with found-footage films. The problem with this film is rather one of narrative confusion. As a review online states, this film is a mashup of ideas from The DescentThe DaVinci CodeIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade and even Flatliners. I throw in The Blair Witch Project and Rec too. It feels like a bunch of different ideas from these movies tossed together. So we get

  • the underground horror of The Descent
  • with the ancient secrets nonsense of The DaVinci Code and Indiana Jones (albeit without the latter’s sense of fun, or Nazis, or really any real sense of caring about the mystery)
  • with found-footage cliches stolen directly from scenes in The Blair Witch ProjectRec and lesser found-footage horror films
  • and a little “close to death, start seeing dead people” thing from Flatliners.

Does that sound good to you? If it does, know that it’s not scary – too many found-footage cliche “scares” for one – and it’s particularly hard to care about the quest for the philosopher’s stone, in part because the lead female character is an awful human being. It’s hard to keep track of all the characters. Also, the baddies change all the time. I think most of them are just supposed to look creepy; sort of a bunch of stock horror villain cliches that they encounter on the way through.

But there’s nothing wrong with the acting.


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