Last night I visited the theater to catch a showing of As Above, So Below. I’m a huge fan of horror films, and I love going to see them on the big screen. I’ll be the first to admit that I have been thoroughly unimpressed with the horror films that have come through the box office within recent years, and I know there are a lot of like minded fans amongst those reading this. So with that having been said, this is the mindset I held while sitting in the darkened theater. To my surprise, I didn’t hate As Above, So Below. In fact, after thinking and talking through the film’s ending, I quickly grew to love it as a horror movie.
The film is about a group of young explorers who venture into the catacombs of Paris. While exploring, they find that there are many dark secrets to be discovered amongst the underground city of the dead.
The film’s title is derived from the beginning of “The Emerald Tablet,” which if you’re like me, you have no idea what that is. It’s a tablet that, as legend goes, was found clutched in the hands of Hermes Trismegistus; a very important guy when it comes alchemy and magic. “That which is above is like that which is below and that which is below is like that which is above, to achieve the wonders of the one thing.” In laymen’s terms, it means that what is on earth is to be a reflection of what is in Heaven.
Overall the film’s visuals are beautiful. The opening sequences are filled with scenery that is any photographer’s dream to capture. This is not something you would come to expect when viewing a horror movie, but it works perfectly for As Above. However, the visuals of the film quickly change to dark and nightmarish tones. The entire movie is shot using found footage style, a trademark in the horror genre. This style is much easier and cheaper for filmmakers, so horror movies use it all too much. However, As Above utilizes the style for storytelling and atmosphere. The style works so well for this film so much that, if it were filmed any other way, it would greatly take away from the film’s quality.
Because of the way the film is shot, it adds to the intensity of the film’s horror. The labyrinth that the explorers make their way through is unpredictable, and because of the found footage style, the viewer is just as terrified as the crew within the catacombs.
The film’s soundtrack however, is not something to be acclaimed. I suppose one could say that it is hard to be original when there have already been so many greats that have come before, but that’s no excuse for not trying. When I think of my favorite horror films, I immediately can recall the film’s score. But with As Above, So Below it’s easily forgettable.
With it’s fast-paced, unpredictable story it easily scares audiences, but because of all the focus on suspense, the film greatly lacks when it comes to developing the characters it follows. The film references lots of historical sources pertaining to alchemy and mythology, but many of them were obscured to me and not explained very well in context. These sources just so happen to be a major part of the film’s plot, so if you don’t take the time to do some quick research afterwards, you may be not understand the story. The film ends on a bit of an anticlimactic note, but balances itself out with all that is left for the viewer to ponder.
With very mixed reviews, it’s easy to pass up on seeing As Above, So Below. If you’re a fan of horror movies and you’re not going to see this one, you’re missing quite the gem.
My rating: 7/10