HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: As Above, So Below
HTS Overall Score:73
I’m a sucker for a good horror movie, I really am. I love being scared spitless, cringing at the gore and generally being creeped out by jump scares. Handheld camera point of view filming styles have their own charm, but can wear on you fast. I’ve seen some that are really enjoyable and others that are so nauseatingly herky jerky that you get motion sickness fast. “As Above, So Below” utilizes this style of film making and as with many of the same type the shifting camera work can get a little bit annoying. The saving grace to the film was that it truly was a creepy premise and the 3rd act amps up the scares big time. I wouldn’t say that I’m in love with the movie, but I ended up having a good time with for sure.
We have young Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), an incredibly skilled and educated young archeology enthusiast and her quest to find the philosopher’s stone. This stone is said to be able to turn standard objects into gold and had a host other mysterious powers to boot. Her father spent his whole life trying to track down the stone, only to end up killing himself before he could achieve his life’s work. Scarlett has followed in his footsteps and spent her young life trying to track down the clues to its whereabouts. Teaming up with a young linguist by the name of George (Ben Feldman) and Benji (Edwin Hodge), the documentarian who is chronicling her quest, they head out to Paris where they finally believe they have come to the end of their search. Hiring a couple of local guides, they head into the catacombs under Paris where they believe the stone is hidden.
Once down in the catacombs things start getting weird fast. Tunnels start shifting around on them, locations getting moved and soon they start running into even stranger encounters. Old friends they though were dead, a telephone in the catacombs starts ringing and weird cult members pop up randomly. Soon enough they actually find the stone and all hell breaks loose. As they delve deeper and deeper into the catacombs they find they can’t get out and every sign points towards a supernatural interference. Coming to a strange door, they find the inscription that matches up with the supposed inscription on the gates to hell and as soon as that door is passed people start dying. Soon Scarlett realizes that the stone is there for a reason and that taking it has triggered events that are too much for them to handle. Now she must return the stone to its rightful place and hopefully find a way back before they all end up dead.
“As Above, So Below” certainly has its charms. It utilizes the whole “point of view” camera work quite well, and gives much more solid results than others that have tried the same style of film making recently. The ambiance is truly creepy, as you get deeper and deeper into the catacombs the levels of skin crawling definitely increases. The young explorers who get in over their heads is a staple of the horror genre and I have no real issue with that particular trope, but after a while I started to notice that some of the direction seemed a bit off. There were moments of true scariness and a certain lack of jump scares (which is a nice thing really, too many horror movies rely too much on them), but it really took a while for the scares to start coming. The first act was nothing but exposition and it wasn’t till part way through the second act that even the catacombs STARTED being scary. The third act went full bore with the terror, but it was almost a bit too late. A bit less exposition in the catacombs and some more focus on the events past the door would have certainly helped the pacing a bit.
I’m going to have to say that this is solid rental material though. The scares are certainly there, albeit a bit late in the game, and even with a little bit of an abrupt ending I felt the mood and the tension were thick enough to cut with a knife. I’ve seen better horror movies, but this is nowhere near the schlock that gets pumped out all year round in an oversaturated genre. Despite those flaws, the premise really cool and the inclusion of the hell gate turned things around really fast.
Rated R for bloody violence/terror, and language throughout
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=34705[/img]“As Above, So Below” is show with a POV perspective, either through the use of handheld cameras or helmet mounted cams, and the results will have that shaky look to them that was made famous with “The Blair Witch Project”. This introduces a very choppy looking picture that sometimes looks fantastic, especially when the camera stops long enough to focus on a longer conversation, and other times detail and clarity can get lost in the chaos as the camera bounces all over the place. This is not really a fault of the movie though, as it is most definitely a stylistic choice chosen to add to the ambiance of the film. Colors are decent, but rather muted as we mostly are privy to the 4 characters under the catacombs and they are shrouded in darkness at all times. Detail can look fantastic in the outdoor shots, and even during the steady cam moments, but when the cameras start bouncing all over as the operator starts moving and things get a little bit blurry. Black levels are paramount here and they do hold up nicely, even in the darkest scenes. Any issue with lack of detail in the shadows is more to do with the herky jerky cameras rather than any actual limitations in the transfer.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=34713[/img]The 7.1 DTS-HD MA track that universal gave us English speakers is simply marvelous. A good horror movie and good audio goes hand in hand, so the very powerful and tense feelings can permeate the viewers in conjunction with the visible scares. The immersion level is extremely high as the enveloping track features a solid array of creepy ambient noises, ranging from soft musical cues to the rasping of rocks and bone clattering around the feet of the unfortunate 4. The individual sounds show a very impressive layer of detailing, giving us unique and distinguishable tones that allows for pinpoint sonic accuracy. Dialogue is a bit hard to hear sometimes, mainly because the mics on the cameras sometimes get shifted in other directions and the volume can dip just a bit when that happens, and lose the vocal clarity. The LFE is par for the course for a horror movie. The subs will come from nowhere and just flatten you backwards with wave after wave of house shaking bass and still have room for more.
• Inside As above/So below
“As Above, So Below” isn’t the most engaging horror movie out there, but it DOES do something many horror movies better than this can’t seem to do, and that is leave you feeling incredibly creeped out. My only real complaint to fans of horror movies is that it takes a bit too long to setup the truly creepy third act and we’ve already waded through 45 minutes of exposition before we really get cranking. Still, that third act is a powerhouse and left me with a pleasantly disturbed feeling in my stomach. Tie than in with a solid video presentation and a great audio presentation and that means I’m definitely recommending it for at least a rental.
Starring: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge
Directed By: John Erick Dowdle
Written By: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 7.1, Spanish, French, Italian, French Canadian, German DTS 5.1
Studio: Universal Studios
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 2nd 2014
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