Thursday, September 11, 2014

FILM REVIEW: As Above, So Below (2014)


Ever have one of those days where you feel like you're going round and round in circles and you find yourself getting lost deep in the catacombs thousands of feet beneath the surface of Paris? Well, if you happen to be one of the poor unfortunate souls in the new found footage horror film As Above, So Below...then...well....yeah....you're kinda fucked.

Sometimes I enjoy a healthy dose of adventure. As a matter of fact, at one point early on in my life I really wanted to be an archaeologist. Mostly because of Indiana Jones, I really wanted to go out in the world and discover old artifacts that haven't been seen by human eyes in eons. Of course...once I realized that I really wasn't that great at solving ancient puzzles in order to save my own skin...the dream sort of fizzled away. But, I remain fascinated with the concept of archaeology...from a distance. Which is why I continue to dig films where people go searching for long lost things...only to find a more formidable obstacle. Kinda like the new film As Above, So Below.

You might be familiar with the brothers Dowdle...or at least their previous efforts. Perhaps you caught their debut effort The Poughkeepsie Tapes  somewhere on the internwebz...or maybe you saw Devil  a few years back. Or you might've seen Quarantine, the american remake of [Rec]. Whatever the case, you should know that these boys be some talented mofos and this latest effort is a surprisingly good one...be it a bit flawed.


The film opens somewhere deep in the caves of Iran where young Scarlett (a really impressive Perdita Weeks) is on the hunt for the Flamel stone (a magical stone created by Nicholas Flamel which is said to spew out gold and grant eternal life) that her father spent his life searching for before his untimely demise. Instead, she discovers an ancient artifact known as the Rose Key, which later unlocks the hidden path of the catacombs hidden under the surface of Paris. It's a bit far-fetched, I agree...but, it's this archeology stuff that tends to hold my fancy for awhile and makes me watch shit for hours on end on the History channel. Jesus...I must've watched Temple of Doom  like a bazillion times already. So...yeah...I pretty much ate it all up. Even the bit where Scarlett hooks up with an ex who has a hobby of fixing clock tower clocks that haven't worked in centuries. I mean...why the fuck not, right?

So, she hooks up with George (played by Ben Feldman, another impressive young actor) in order to recruit him for his ability to translate long forgotten languages in which to help solve all these crazy puzzles so that they can find that goddamn Flamel stone. The only problem is...that the pesky Flamel stone is hidden somewhere in the catacombs beyond one of the gates of Hell. Enter the horror stuff.

This is the part where I admittedly began my gushing for the film. I simply love the concept of getting lost within the gates of Hell. I mean...I used to dream of the very scenario years ago when I would fantasize of finding and entering through one of the gates and discovering all of the dark evils within. I love all the stuff in the film about how the caverns found each of the hidden dark secrets that each person was hiding deep inside. Although it certainly made for some whipped-up character expositions, it was entertaining to see all the scary stuff unfold. And, I must say, it is great to see something scary on the screen with the right set of actors executing everything really well.


It's too bad that the third act goes off the rails a bit, losing me during a scene where one of the characters realizes that in order to save a particular person they must go back and retrieve a certain item that wasn't obtained correctly. Kinda like a video game where you lose at getting to another level and must start over at some random location, punching out all the video game bad guys along the way with ease because you've already beat them previously. Also, the film just has that "dumped on Labor Day weekend" feel to it. Rushed and jittery and most likely only existing because the studio needed something "cool" to dump on a holiday weekend. It just feels like there's tons more cool stuff left on the cutting room floor somewhere. And I did wish they explored more of the "gates of hell" stuff rather than getting lost in all of that claustrophobic horror. Still...one could do worse than to check this little surprise out.

As Above, So Below  certainly had no business being this good. I love all the conceptual stuff about the explorers finding a gate to Hell and was impressed by the execution of all the actors and the Dowdle brothers' filmmaking. I'm sure that I'm not the only one that feels that all the found footage gimmickry was not necessary for this affair and I really wished that there was much more to the film other than that tidy, anticlimactic resolution.



Thanks for reading,

bryan.




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