Adam Reynoso ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Taking place in the infamous catacombs beneath the city of Paris, As Above, So Below attempts to tell a mix of a thriller, horror and psychological film. In doing so, the plot comes out rushed while trying to accomplish too much in the span of 90 minutes, especially in its last act. However, the first hour does do an admirable job at creating a creepy, claustrophobic environment.
The film follows explorers Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), Benji (Edwin Hodge) and George (Ben Feldman), along with their local French guides that consist of Papillon (François Civil), Souxie (Marion Lambert) and Zed (Ali Marhyar). They are all helping Scarlett as she hopes to prove her father’s work wasn’t a waste and that the legendary Philosopher’s Stone existed. After following clues they found earlier in the film, the group makes their way into the catacombs, where the further they venture, the only way out is to keep going down.
The first hour is primarily buildup and setting up the atmosphere of the catacombs. It does an incredible job of establishing its setting and really making the most of environment. There are certain scenes that may make claustrophobic people a bit uncomfortable as the characters are faced with these kinds of situations, but there’s also more. There are the little things that shouldn’t be down in the catacombs that begin to build up the suspense. In one scene, they hear a phone ringing, which seems impossible. But the way it plays out, it gives off an eerie vibe.
After the first hour is when things start to go from bad to worse. The group finds that they have to keep going down to find their escape, and it’s once they reach a certain tunnel that it gets even weirder. The tunnel has the same inscription above that Dante wrote about in his famous work, Inferno. In the last act is where it does also fall a part. The film did a good job setting up a different type of story, but it just fails to land an ending that really works. Once the Philosopher’s Stone comes into play, As Above, So Below doesn’t seem to know what kind of film it wants to be. Another noticeable flaw is that it seems like the two leads always know more than they would about mythology. It just seems too convenient for the plot.
While the story had promise, it lacked good lead characters. The way Scarlett leads the group is almost reckless. Especially in the opening scene, she doesn’t care if she might get trapped in a cave and get a man who helped her killed; she just wants to get what she came for. Her cameraman, Benji, never really gets that much to work with and the audience doesn’t really have anyway to connect with him. Out of all of them, George and Papillon seem to be the most likeable and have interesting backgrounds.
One of the biggest takeaways in the film is how the characters have to face their demons. They are all going through their own personal hells, yet it’s never fully explained what these demons are. While it may seem clear for some, the rest are left unanswered. Just as well, there are a lot of things from the rest of the film that remain unanswered from the last act.
With an interesting story and creepy setting, As Above, So Below suffers from lack of a strong, likeable lead and rushed together ending. The film succeeds in executing suspenseful psychological scares without relying on gore, yet it leaves many questions unresolved with its ambiguous ending.
Overall Grade: C+