I never expected to see two found footage movies in one summer that pay heavy homage to Spielberg. Earth to Echo pays homage to E.T. and As Above, So Below pays homage to Indiana Jones. That said, I am definitely reviewing the better of the two right now.
In As Above, So Below, An English explorer (Perdita Weeks) searches the catacombs of Paris in search for a stone with healing powers with the help of a small group. There journey quickly becomes hellish to say the least.
Most of the characters are pretty stereotypical for what type of movie this is trying to be. The lead explorer is thrill seeking and wreckless but intelligent and wise at the same time. Her partner is equally intelligent but is much more prone to being scared. The people they team up with are a rag tag group who are irresponsible and not as smart but do know the catacombs. The dialogue is choppy and hokey and the developments that are supposed to add layers to the characters come off as awkward and unrealistic. However, it’s not like they just picked random people up off the street to play the parts, the actors in this movie do their best with the script they were given and it made the protagonists sympathetic enough to service the kind of movie that this is. Perdita Weeks was a fine enough lead and she shared good chemistry with her other explorer companion played by Ben Feldman. Everyone is doing a solid enough job in a movie that doesn’t really need excellent performances.
This movie does just enough things for me to put it above average. The biggest compliment I have is that I never felt bored when I was watching this. I thought the concept for this was original in a time where most found footage movies either have to do with possession, abduction or monsters. Most of the scares and concepts were things I hadn’t seen before in these kinds of movies. It’s the first time in a while where I can actually say that a found footage movie was unpredictable. There are a ton of original and cool scares, even if many of these don’t add up by the end, I still prefer this to 20 minutes of hyperventilating people running around with their cameras while we wait for an obvious, weak payoff. The obvious inspiration of the Indiana Jones films worked towards the advantage of this because it gave the movie an attention to a very action and fantasy related story. In what other found footage movie are you going to find demon rock monsters come out of a wall and attack the heroes. The movie tried to actually thrill and have fun with its concept as opposed to just giving loud, obnoxious jump scares. I can’t give it away, but the ending is easily the best moment and breaks possibly the hugest criticism most people have with found footage story wise. It’s got clichéd characters but unique plot devices and cool visuals really had me genuinely surprised throughout and it made the movie much more entertaining than it should’ve been.
There’s not a lot to be said for a movie like this. I have always been one to defend polarizing gimmicks like 3D or in this case Found Footage. Many have no problem passing both off as lazy cash ins and sometimes they happen to be correct (The Devil Inside, Devil’s Due, and Paranormal Activity 4). But like other genres and filmmaking techniques, there are plenty of times where both have shined. I think Cloverfield is absolutely astonishing and The Bay, Paranormal Activity 2 and Grave Encounters are undeniably riveting. I understand the criticisms, but like all things there will be good and bad attempts. As Above, So Below falls a little bit towards the right of the found footage spectrum. It’s not good at writing characters and there are plenty of plot holes, but the movie was well paced, well-acted and it was never boring. If your fan of the genre, you’ll find some entertainment in this. If you don’t like found footage, this won’t do anything to change your opinion. I threw around the term “the kind of that this is” a bit during this review. I had fun with this the same way I would with a cool roller coaster. You know what it is and you know what will generally happen but you can’t help but find yourself getting excited over the various twists and turns it takes. I went along with the ride and I had a visceral good time.
Review by: Ryan M.
Release Date: 4/4/2014
Cast: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman and Edwin Hodge
Directed by: John Erick Dowdle
Screenplay by: Drew Dowdle and John Erick Dowdle