3 Sep 2014

Review - 'As Above, So Below' is Chilling yet Sloppy Blair Witch Meets Tomb Raider Affair

Miles of twisting catacombs lie beneath the streets of Paris, the eternal home to countless souls. When a team of explorers ventures into the uncharted maze of bones, they uncover the dark secret that lies within this city of the dead. A journey into madness and terror, As Above, So Below reaches deep into the human psyche to reveal the personal demons that come back to haunt us all. Written by John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle (Quarantine, Devil) and directed by John Erick Dowdle, the psychological thriller is produced by Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Drew Dowdle and Patrick Aiello. Alex Hedlund serves as the executive producer.

As Above, So Below, horror's answer to the Lara Croft mythology is the type of film for acquired taste, the type that pushes the audiences boundaries as to how much they can handle, displaying a wide range of sub-plots to test the attention of its target audience; from the mystic to the mysterious, love and loss. It's the film of all genres of 2014, and if that is something you as a horror fan simply can not handle, then you turn your back and walk as far away from As Above, So Below as possible; it's just that kind of movie.

Tackling themes that don't normally rub shoulders in the horror genre, As Above So Below effectively (and both ineffectively) blends its source material and presents it in a Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones manner, resulting in a film focused on the premise just as much as the fear factor, and even that isn't an entirely good thing. Although it's lingered in ancient artifacts that only historians would be intrigued in, which leaves the rest of us, those eager for the horror hungry after a full 60 minute wait; there is build on suspense and then there's just loosing focus, and that is what I call loosing focus.

Delving into unwanted territory, John Erick Dowdle fails to understand the generics of the horror genre, therefore fails to build upon so in order to create a few impressive moments worth noting, and even though the horror does eventually arrive, the waffling he does beforehand only makes you detest the wait as opposed to anticipating the reveal. In saying this, Dowdle establishes an effective sense of claustrophobia that stays in tact throughout, and shines in one uncomfortable scene in which one of the crew is trapped in a really tight space; cue heavy breathing. It's that approach which should have driven As Above So Below from average, to pretty damn good.

There is no denying that once the film shifts into the correct gear, it powers through the Tomb Raider phase that is slower than Honey Boo Boo's mum on a treadmill, and gets right to the juicy horror core that is both chilling and haunting despite its tedious tendencies. It quickly becomes a lean and spooky thrill ride as soon as presents its horror in a more Blair "Which Way" Project than actual Blair Witch; it's a found footage horror, it's hard to actually invent something that hasn't already been done, but when the ingredients are all there like As Above So Below, you look pretty silly when you can't cook up something worth the hype.

Thankfully, the title actually does make sense and has a specific link to the film which I will not go into, but you soon realise that As Above So Below is more than just your typical cave-dweller found-footage horror, and is in fact a lot smarter than that, but not near as smart as it thinks it is. Things start to get a little bizarre which both benefits and becomes a nuisance to the film, resulting in a hugely yet surprising formalist horror experience that would only prove enjoyable to those who like their horror served up quirky with added goofiness. This of course is all well and good, but the moment it oversteps the line between acceptable and dumb is when As Above So Below starts to deflate, resulting in some strange supernatural romance horror hybrid that only the completely open minded would enjoy.

This terrible sense of surrealism has its quirks, but it builds up to a moment which was both cringe-worthy and extremely unnecessary, resulting in me face planting my hand and the whole cinema tutting and laughing. Imagine As Above So Below being like one of your average roller coaster, building and building to a huge height to then reach a point where it drops drastically to the bottom. The build-up is good and the effectiveness of the scares are decent, but it all sizzles down to an ending that leaves you slightly baffled in the most ordinary of ways; at least we don't really have to worry about a sequel anytime soon, right?

Slow but chilling, original but tedious; As Above So Below feels like an Tomb Raider styled horror cross-over that's fractured by a sloppy delivery and a flat-line ending despite having a few haunting moments.


2014 / 93 mins / Thriller, Found Footage / 16 (R)

Director: John Erick Dowdle

Writers: Drew Dowdle, John Erick Dowdle

Stars: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge


  1. Interesting. I was a bit unsure about this movie, it had a neat premise but the trailer seemed underwhelming. That seems to happen with a lot of modern horror films.

    1. You know what, it's worth a viewing I mean i liked it I just didnt like some of the things that was brought across. It's not as scary as it should be and its dumber than its needs to be. Give it a go sure!

    2. Might be worth considering if I get a bit of free time and need to get out for a while, or if it shows up on Netflix.

      If it is any interest, I've recently started a special feature on my blog dedicated to horror movies for Halloween, and I did manage to actually find a good modern horror film (and I have at least one more on my list). Perhaps you'd like to check it out: http://hitchcocksworld.blogspot.ca/2014/09/halloween-horror-call-of-cthulhu.html

    3. yeah! thanks man I will check that out! ps great blog



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