As bland, so terrible
A classic in the, “How much longer ’till it’s over genre,” As Above, So Below slogs to an incomprehensible, bloody finish which is a shame considering the authentic location work in the catacombs of Paris.
Head tracking cameras film most of this underground excursion, playing out with the loose logic of National Treasure, sadly without the cartoonish lunacy of Nicholas Cage. Thinly defined characters fumble around in low light in search of mythical artifacts, playing As Above, So Below impossibly straight given the circumstances.
Led by Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), this sluggish crew of adventurers slips through chest high piles of bones in order to plunder riches, ultimately cascading ever downward in an illogical, ill-explained pit of horrors. As Above, So Below wants to be a figment of their minds – each key player begins to see visions of their past bubbling into their sight lines. And then that pretense is dropped, because zombies.
Were the eventual pay-off satisfactory, forty or so minutes of arduous, expository set-up wouldn’t hurt. Illicit underground tour guide Papillon (Francios Civil) and documentary filmmaker Benji (Edwin Hodge) exist to throw out repetitious “why” or “how” questions, with Scarlett and sort of love interest George (Ben Feldman) spewing answers for the audience, not their company.
All pretenses of alchemy, established immediately, dissipate into the abyss, thrown out because this heavily marketed cheapie is more intrigued with puddles of blood and false tension. Creepy things in corners, smoky shadows, uneventful collapsing ceilings; believing it to be routine would be kind.
Final shots are fired under the banner of psychological horror. All of those background problems, in other context those few slivers of character embellishment offered, begin to surface and torment each individual. Dead kids, dead fathers, dead everything begin their hokey wrath with limited consequence. Eventually, by the time cloaked Grim Reaper-esque figures are rising and the dizzying head cameras have thinned as visual devices, As Above, So Below has worn itself down to dust particles.
Given not only the necessities of miniature cameras but the filming conditions as well, As Above, So Below was never destined to wow visually. It doesn’t either. Most of the feature is stuck in corridors with scattered debris creating a mild haze. A touch of underwater footage means the introduction of banding.
Prior to the descent, a few talking head interviews to intro Scarlett look fantastic. Exterior daylight bumps contrast and facial detail is superb. Texture is strong with this one for a few minutes at least.
As Above, So Below then sinks into various browns, losing a sense of color. Primaries fail to carry into Paris’ guts. Head lamps offer little illumination, killing image density. Black levels are relatively pale too unless all lights are out. Overall images are light and dulled, enough to set mood without doing anything extravagant in post-production.
The addition of 7.1 gives a bit of weight to this otherwise mediocre bit of horror. Catacombs catch all manner of weird creaks, groans, and echoes. Mixing loves to catch incidentals to add to these claustrophobic interiors. Screams travel far. Before the visits below, some church bells will ring out, slamming the entire soundfield.
Surprisingly, As Above, So Below carries a beefy side too, letting the LFE loose to simulate earthquakes or brief explosions. Rock slides and such feel dangerous as they rise in intensity. Plus, a club sequence is bombarded by dance tracks.
Audio mixing is better than the movie itself.
Inside As Above, So Below is the lonely, miniscule bonus feature, a sub-four minute promo of little value outside of its promotional roots. A few stories regarding the filming in such a location are nifty, but deserve more attention.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.