As Above, So Below: found footage done right!

Indiana Jones meets Event Horizon in the setting of The Descent

As Above, So Below (2014)
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Writer: Drew DowdleJohn Erick Dowdle
Starring: Perdita WeeksBen FeldmanEdwin Hodge


As Above, So Below is a new found footage horror film that has a limited release today (8/28) and a full release tomorrow. It is about an archaeologist who is hunting for the mythical philosopher’s stone, said to be capable of turning any metal into gold and grant immortality. Her hunt leads her to Paris, France where her clever puzzle solving leads her to believe that there is a secret chamber in the catacombs beneath the city where the stone is hidden. With the help of a group of local miscreants familiar with sealed off portions of the labyrinthian crypt, she, her friend, and her camera man all go down to find the truth. But once down there, all hell quite literally breaks loose…

First off, a lot of people knock the found footage style of film making. Let’s first say that, when done right, I love it. When you’ve been on movie sets like I have, it makes it difficult to watch movies and not be very aware that you are doing just that. There’s no immersion when there is no magic and there is no magic when you know how the trick is done. With found footage though, the entire point is that you are aware that there is a person holding a camera. This makes it easier for me to actually suspend my disbelief and enjoy the fictional world on the screen. I love found footage. When it is done right, it’s awesome. As Above, So Below is done right.

First off, it reminded me a bit of Indiana Jones. Our intrepid archaeologist (played by Perdita Weeks) travels from the middle east to France to finish her father’s work and find the philosopher’s stone. The writers are to be commended for the numerous clever puzzles they create for their heroine to solve. Traps, historical references, hidden doors, it really did feel like an Indian Jones or National Treasure film at some points and it worked really well. But, where Indie may have run afoul of supernatural forces in his movies, this movie’s dark forces are a great deal scarier and disturbing. Once the horror starts, each member of the team is faced with their own personal demons in scenes that were effect, creeper, and sometimes outright brutal. That combined with the already present feelings of claustrophobia, the very real possibility of being buried alive or starving to death in the dark hundreds of feet beneath a bustling metropolis, makes for a very high tension film.

The acting is perfectly fine. Nothing to complain about, to be sure. The camera work is very well done. I really enjoy some of the angles used. The film utilizes both jump scares and the concept of the glimpse of something dangerous off in the distance (my favored approach to causing fear). Some of the scenes are genuinely creepy as hell (all pun intended). Another area worthy of praise is that the characters actually went counter-intuitive to a horror film and made noticeably uncharacteristically intelligent decisions in several spots.

This is a very well made, genuinely creepy found footage movie with an intelligent, creative plot and I highly recommend it!

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