“As Above, So Below” only offers scares

Jackson French, Columnist

Jackson French

The found-footage movie is getting stale. In the wake of films like “Cloverfield” and the “Paranormal Activity” series, “As Above, So Below” is years late to the party but still manages to wring some scares out of the depleted subgenre.

As the big screen equivalent of those haunted house attractions that pop up like mushrooms every October, the movie is a success. From the moment the characters go underground, an unsettling atmosphere falls over the theater. Making the effect especially successful is the way this movie is shot. Taking place mainly in tight corridors, “As Above, So Below” is presented as found footage, making it especially claustrophobic. Watching the movie, you feel like you’re trapped in the catacombs with the characters.

Though the movie has plenty of jump scares, there’s also some existential horror in the form of looping corridors and other unexplainable phenomena. Though the story is a bit lacking in real drama, “As Above, So Below” raises the heart rate and makes the viewer dread rounding the next corner.  

Speaking of story, that’s where this movie falls short. The premise is that these young’uns go into the catacombs beneath Paris in search of a magical object called the philosopher’s stone. They enter hell and are tormented by brutal manifestations of their pasts. The problem is these pasts aren’t adequately explained. Every threat is supposed to be linked to someone’s history but half the time it’s unclear how. Some of the people and monsters encountered in the catacombs appear for no reason at all. Seeing the characters die has the power to make you jump in your seat but not to make you understand or care about their fates. The way the movie makes you feel trapped underground is the only thing that helps the viewer feel invested. 

If all you want is a fun, forgettable romp, “As Above, So Below” has all the essential ingredients. Sadly, though, it never rises above its simple, shock-value driven nature.