As Above, So Below (2014) Review

Found Footage is ruining potentially excellent movies. I understand the need for it sometimes; budget, intensity, extra-scares but it is such an over-used device that it is losing any unique element and also detracting from what a movie is trying to achieve.

Unfortunately, As Above, So Below uses this device and just as the film is becoming as scary as it can be, the found footage element ruins the moment. The film is set in a very freaky environment anyway – the catacombs of France – and the idea of being trapped in this underground maze of corridors, caves and booby-trapped walls is enough to frighten anyone. You add to that the potential that what these explorers are walking into may be the Gates of Hell itself and the movie becomes even more interesting.

Found Footage actually ruins the movie

The found footage ruins this because all we ever get is illuminated faces and dark, dusty walls. When anything does happen, the action is so frantic and so sudden that you can’t actually see anything. A glimpse of a demon or a quick jump directly at the camera out of the darkness isn’t enough. Each of the scariest moments are over before you’ve looked back at the screen.

It is a shame too because there is a lot to like about As Above, So Below. It begins as a make-shift Tomb Raider and this develops as the film progresses. The movie is a treasure hunt, looking for secret passageways, solving riddles and finding lost, hidden treasure. This would have made for an interesting movie anyway, without the added horror and it makes you wonder if this the direction to take with any potential Tomb Raider movie, without the found footage of course.

Maybe this is how they should do a Tomb Raider film

Adding the horror actually takes something away from the interest of the film slightly. The catacombs are scary enough without adding the demon and supernatural element. The idea of secret passageways, trapdoors and riddles to solve, while the characters go deeper into the tombs in an attempt to get back out, holds enough promise alone. This is especially the case because the horror is under-developed. There is a very good idea underneath the found footage, shaky cam but it seems to rely too much on the next scare rather than taking the time to explore some of the ideas it has introduced.

This means that when we do finally get to the ending, it is under-whelming. You are waiting for the twist or big reveal that makes the last 90 minutes worthwhile but will find yourself disappointed. You can’t help feeling there was a final moment that was needed, something that made the whole story click into place.

Overall, As Above, So Below is a good example of why Found Footage as a genre has had it’s day. Rather than add anything to this film, it actually detracts and removes the scares rather than increases them. This means that we don’t get the full potential of a movie with an interesting story, some unique moments but an under-developed idea that may have worked better had it not been a horror.

Rating – 2.5

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

The movie should be so much better
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11 comments

  1. Great topic. I suspect many FFs are reactions to the Hollywood barrier. A script that can’t get TO Hollywood or can’t get the interest OF Hollywood. So, they make it a DIY project & often disappointingly so.

      • To say nothing of being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – less than 10% of FF’s actually fit the FF parameters. 40% have no business being made for any reason and the rest would definitely be improved by steady cams and dropping the faux “recovered” gimmick.

  2. I actually thought this was a very well done FF film and the FF angle seemed to enhance the journey for me. I’m not a huge fan of FF films myself but sometimes I think it does pay off…and it is no longer done just for budget restraints, It sometimes adds more intimacy and empathy to the characters. The parts with the dirt tunnel caving in were freaking me out (ill admit I have a bit of claustrophobia and sometimes have nightmares that are almost exactly like that scene).

    • Those worked well with the Found Footage but the moments where they wee being chased or something was coming out of the shadows didn’t work because you couldn’t see things clearly.

      • I have to think of 911 as an example…no one could see things clearly because they were running and trying to look up. They didn’t really know what was going on until later. It’s like the difference of being ‘in’ the action or seeing the action later on the news with explanation.

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