As Above, So Below Blu-ray Review
The “found footage” phenomenon might finally be nearing a close. I think I have that (thankful) thought once or twice a year and then yet another in a string of uninspired entries clearly made to try to save the studios from to finally be nearing a close. I count this among the positives in the ever-evolving landscape of cinema but it is extremely necessary right now to make a change. The genre started with the release of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) now more closely resembles a caricature or a shadow of the former self; the movies we consume but have no feeling toward. In fact, there are so few conventions left that haven’t already been overused and killed to the point where they are entirely disengaging to an audience that you’ll likely find yourself saying “man, I saw that in (insert movie name here).” And it doesn’t happen once or twice in AS ABOVE, SO BELOW… it happens in almost every scene.
AS ABOVE, SO BELOW is about an alchemy scholar, Scarlett, who is following in her father’s footsteps, trying to find the location of the fabled philosopher’s stone after making a discovery that possibly revealed the location. Her father died during his own quest to find the stone, which is supposed to turn certain minerals to gold and to give the possessor infinite life. Scarlett first appears proud and aloof at the opportunity she has to perhaps finish her father’s work until, in the kind of cliché we see too often in film (and this one in particular), Scarlett learns the children’s message cliché: learning only too late your parent wasn’t crazy and that the obsession that seemingly destroyed your relationship was actually based on something real.
Scarlett and her videographer recruit another person to join them in their trip to the literal underworld of Paris- literally beneath the Paris streets. They get a fairly grisly team of explorers who are hoping to find treasure (a bust) and Scarlett brings in a constant collaborator (who may be more) in the person of George (Ben Feldman) who, it appears, Scarlett abandoned in Turkey when she found another clue. George reluctantly comes along despite his misgivings both about working with Scarlett again and because of the relative danger she seems to always be just a hairline away from.
This is, of course, essentially the jumping off point of the movie but by this time we’ve already been treated to a handful of unsurprising clichés. The curse of the found footage film, I suppose, is that they are so bound by the idea they are videoing whatever is happening on their own nose that we miss out on some scenes that could have been mesmerizing. The appeal, of course, is the single point of interaction and the more point-of-view feel. There is more suspense to many of the scenes, for example, because of what we clearly are unable to see.
AS ABOVE, SO BELOW plays with some conventions and has an interesting storyline, specifically revolving around the possibility that the actual gates to hell exist beneath the streets of Paris. But as the party goes further and further into the abyss they leave some of the humanity they brought to the opening act and thus leave the audience behind. In spite of this AS ABOVE, SO BELOW is the worst type of horror film, the kind that exists for only a few moments of true scariness and otherwise is a complete bore.
I had hoped with the filmmakers behind the QUARANTINE remake that they would flourish when given license to really create something of their own. AS ABOVE, SO BELOW takes too many cues from what has come before and thus kills the suspense it hopes to illicit in viewers. It’s a difficult film to watch, the kind that leaves you constantly hoping for something fresh but never actually delivering on the promise. I can’t recommend it.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 1.85:1) The video quality of AS ABOVE, SO BELOW is pretty much what you’d expect from a found footage flick with some casually, probably unintentionally immersive moments.
Audio: (English Dolby Digital 7.1) The audio for AS ABOVE, SO BELOW is actually considerably more impressive than the narrative or the video quality of the film. With crisp highs and lows the audio gets
Inside AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (03:39) The extremely short (and disappointing) lone special feature on the AS ABOVE, SO BELOW Blu-ray just barely scraps the surface of the material. It’s incredibly jumpy and difficult to watch but it does indicate the factual (?) presence of bodies underneath the city of Paris central to the story.