Monday, 16 February 2015

Horrors of 2014: As Above, So Below (2014)

As Above, So Below (2014)
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Starring:  Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, and Edwin Hodge
Running Time: 93 min

  I've heard a lot of mixed reviews about this film, some people think it's really great and others find it be tedious & dull.  This is another "found footage" film from director John Erick Dowdle, who brought us a "The Poughkeepsie Tapes", which was okay, "Quarantine", which was the American remake of (REC) & surprisingly enjoyable and of course "Devil", which was... well it just was.  Anyway four years after "Devil", Dowdle is back and he's under the streets of Paris with his hand held cams looking for more scares.  I hope nobody gets trapped in an elevator in this one.

  Scarlett is this young professor who is trying to complete her deceased father's work and find the philosopher stone, a legendary alchemical substance that has the abilities to turn lead into gold and grant eternal life and was to have been discovered by Nicholas Flamel, a long long time ago.  She is like a female version of Indiana Jones and has smuggled herself into Iran to find the fabled "Rose Key", which is the Rosetta stone for all things alchemy.  She easily finds it after smashing through an ancient wall with priceless text on it and she has just enough time to film all the sacred writing before the building collapses and she barely squeaks out alive.  She then heads to Paris with her cameraman, Benji, to search of her not so old friend, George because Aramaic seems to be the only language that she doesn't speak.
  Anyway, they find George illegally fixing an old bell of a church and Scarlett begs him to help her but he is reluctant to help her because they last time they were together, she left him rotting in a Turkish prison.  However after some eye batting, George says that he will help but only with translating and nothing more.  So, he sneaks Scarlett and Benji into a museum during the night to try and translate the tombstone of Nicholas Flamel.  After some Nancy Drew riddle figuring out and finding a secret note on the back of the tombstone, they group realizes that they have to go into the catacombs of Paris to find the philosopher stone.
  After a guided tour that gets them nowhere, a local suggests finding a guy called Papillon, which means butterfly, to help them get access to the closed off areas of the catacombs.  They find him in a french bar and convince him and his friends to join there expedition for half of the treasure that Scarlett promises should be there.  The next day, they gear up and head into the catacombs but George is reluctant to go, fortunately a police raid on the entrance forces George into the caverns with the rest of the crew and after they evade the police, their real adventure begins.
  They end up wandering around the tunnels and end up going through a hole in the wall that Papillon believes is cursed.  Once inside this cursed tunnel, they find Papillon's not so old friend, The Mole, who was never seen again after going into the cursed tunnel.  Amusingly he asks why no one came to look for him?  Anyway,  he leads them through the underground labyrinth and eventually they find a chamber of secrets and Scarlett discovers the philosopher stone, it was right next to the goblet of fire.  However, when Papillon and his team try and unlock their treasures, it causes the ceiling to collapse on them and most of their party is injured and there doesn't seem to be any way to go but deeper and deeper into the deadly tunnels.  Can Scarlett and her team escape this complex network of tunnels and free themselves of this tumultuous predicament or as they delve deeper into this godforsaken maze will they find a fiery plane only thought to be a myth?


  This is a very slow movie and things don't really pick up until like an hour into it.  I think that the story that co-writer and director John Erick Dowdle is telling here is very interesting and there is a ton of cool historical/myth fact stuff that is blended into this story but it just doesn't work for me.  They spend so much time building the suspense wandering through those sewers/catacombs that it gets boring and repetitive.  Also there is no real payoff at the end of the film, there is no retributive justice for tampering with things beyond their earthly world and costing the lives of people on their team.  It's just another day for some of these characters at the end of the film.
  Also, I think these characters seem to be too young to be doing what there doing and it doesn't seem authentic.  I'm sure that there are some brilliant young adults out there but the motivations and the way these characters interact with each other seem years past the way of the people playing them.  It just doesn't feel real to me.
  Finally, there is a stock creepy girl that shows up in places that is never explained or ends up really have an overall impact on the whole story.  It's like she is/was the girlfriend of either the producer or director and she put in the movie because she wants to be in it.  There is no development of this character or explanation and therefore a waste of everyone's viewing time.  I don't blame the actress but the writer to think that throwing in a creepy girl would make the film better.


  What I did like about the movie is the research that John Erick Dowdle and his co-writer Drew Dowdle put into the film.  I find the topics about Nicholas Flamel, alchemy and hell in general, fascinating.  They did some good research and tried to put together what could have really fascinating story about a lost treasure and a earthly doorway to hell.
  Also, it was awesome that they were able to film in the actual catacombs in Paris and to be able to convince the government to sign off on that is commendable and may have opened a doorway for other young filmmakers to use in their productions in the future.


  I was expecting more or something better from director John Erick Dowdle, like Bigfoot movies, there are a whole slew of these underground tunnel films that have been popping up recently and you really have to something in it to make the film pop.  The story is a good idea but the people they have here to portray the characters don't seem right and I think they might be to young for these roles that they are trying to portray.  Also, there isn't a sign of any immediate danger until like an hour in and then there are some spooky stuff but most of it has been done before and lacks originality.  Furthermore, the ending is really blah and there is no real justice for the characters that created the situation, which is frustrating because it's sad to see really bad decisions go unpunished.  If you're really really into found footage films and enjoy watching people traverse the tunnels of underground Paris then maybe give this a shot but if you're looking for a terrifying thriller that has some real scares then I would leave this film unfounded.

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