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Friday, August 29, 2014

As Above, So Below: There's a Real Movie Buried Somewhere Under All This Found Footage

Posted by on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 9:52 AM

Yeah, this isnt going to end well.
  • Yeah, this isn't going to end well.

Sometimes it seems as though the default position for filmmakers putting together a horror movie these days is to go with a found footage format. And that's a shame, because found footage films only work when there's a reason for them to be found footage. As Above, So Below is a movie that makes no sense in this format; in fact, it would have been a much more tense, more dramatically satisfying film had the filmmakers gone with a more traditional narrative framework.

As it is, As Above, So Below is pretty much your standard decent low-budget horror movie with a shitty ending, the kind of thing you summon up on Netflix when you're really stoned and you want to give yourself a fright. The premise holds a lot of promise: Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) is an adventurous young urban archaeologist who's trying to find the Philosopher's Stone in the catacombs below Paris. She brings along a translator/love interest (Ben Feldman) and a guy who's supposed to be making a documentary about Scarlett for some vague reason (Edwin Hodge, unfortunately forced to act out every African-American-guy-in-a-horror-movie cliche ever). Their discoveries in the catacombs are often incredibly creepy—not just those easy jump-scares everyone goes for, but a few slower, more earned psychological scares, too—and the film jogs along at a decent pace for a good portion in the middle. The sound design, too, is effective, pulling off a mostly music-free soundtrack by layering sound effects into a textured mosaic.

But, really, why the found footage? The catacombs would feel more claustrophobic if the camera were allowed to pull back a bit at times, or get up in the actors's faces in a way that forehead-mounted cameras can't. (See the opening scenes of The Descent for a good example of how to do horror-movie claustrophobia right.) By getting rid of the documentary angle entirely, As Above, So Below would have been forced to get a little smarter and a little more subtle in its plot, and maybe a little less muddled in its editing. Without the conceit to weigh it down, this could have been a surprising gem of a low-budget flick; as it is, it's just surprisingly tolerable.

 

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Dougsf 1
They may not have had the budget for a more traditional shooting style. The found footage look means less and cheaper gear, faster shoots, and easier to pull off convincing effects in post (totally generalizing, but ideally this is true.)
Posted by Dougsf on August 29, 2014 at 12:09 PM · Report this

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