As Above, So Below is a supernatural mish-mash
The Catacombs of Paris are an ideal setting for scary doings, even described as the largest crypt in the world – according to a tour guide in As Above, So Below, a new “found-footage” shocker and the latest cinematic undertaking by sibling screenwriters Drew and John Erick (the latter also directing).
It is in those dank, desolate, bone-filled caverns that archaeologist Scarlet Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) and her team of explorers seek the mystical, mythical “Philosopher’s Stone” – a quest that drove Scarlett’s late father to suicide. Needless to say, that plot point resurfaces (no pun intended).
The Catacombs themselves are appropriately creepy and claustrophobic, and there are some jolts along the way, but it’s in the Dowdles’ flaccid, formulaic screenplay that the film falters. There’s little in the way of explanation for the diabolical doings that occur underground, and the risible dialogue tends toward a reprise of “We should keep moving” – a sentiment which, at least, the filmmakers subscribe to. As Above, So Below is silly and trite, but at least it’s not boring. Even the foundfootage angle, done to death in so many movies these days, yields some spooky visuals.
At its best, which isn’t very often, the film plays like an R- rated, gorier reprise of the ‘80s pop hit The Goonies as our intrepid explorers — including Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge and Francois Civil (as a guide named “Papillon”) – constantly find themselves in tight scrapes, with their number predictably diminishing along the way. The characters, if not interchangeable, are thoroughly expendable. There’s the unmistakable sense that, with a little extra care and some internal narrative logic, As Above, So Below could have risen above the standard norm. Instead, it’s a great setting in search of a story.