Monday, January 12, 2015

As Above, So Below (2014)

Yikes, people really hated this one!  It seems found footage has become the Tara Reid of film techniques—first loved, then tolerated, and now the object of inexplicably savage scorn and mockery.  "Why would they keep on filming while they're running away?"  Really, now, would you love this movie if it built up to a monster encounter and then it ended abruptly because someone dropped the camera and ran away?  A: no, you wouldn't.  People who complain about the conceits of found footage are like people who complain about roller coasters because "they all just go up and down and in loops".  Yes, that is what roller coasters are/do!  Found footage horror has people using cameras when they probably realistically wouldn't because otherwise there wouldn't be a movie!  GNARR! 


That's Scarlett, she's an academic adventurer in the Indiana Jones vein.  Her dad died before he could find the Rose Key, but she finds it in the first few minutes of this movie.  Girl power!  Then we travel to Paris, where she enlists the aid of Aramaic expert/old bell repairer George to assist her in locating the legendary philosopher's stone.  This premise is admirably ridiculous and it's capped by a scene that will divide viewers.  George translates an Aramaic document straight into rhyming English couplets on the spot.  !!!  This is so far-fetched that it became charming to me.  I can't believe the moxy of the filmmakers/screenwriter that they just pitched this out there!


So then the pair and a cameraman meet up with some French layabouts and travel into the catacombs beneath the city.  This was filmed in the catacombs for real and the setting really serves to make the film more compelling.  The atmosphere in the dark tunnels is just delightful—you couldn't pick a better place to execute jumpy, found footage horror.  The movie quickly dives into the surreal side of horror, with hallucinatory visions of pianos and firey cars, and also more practical monster attacks.  I'm not screenshotting the monsters so as not to spoil, so enjoy the following derpy faces.


The cast acquits itself effectively, but the film's real selling point is its batty script.  It's like they scanned my brain for things I'd like and somehow put them all into this movie.  Alchemy!  Dante quotes!  Bad Siouxsie and the Banshees jokes!  It's all here.  I loved that the film doesn't explain everything to death either.  There's nothing worse than a film that presents some arcane enigma and then breaks out the PowerPoint and the laser pointers and demystifies it entirely.


This isn't as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark or [rec], but it kind of plays like a mashup of both.  I like the fast-paced action-y side of horror, so I was super-pleased about that.


If you can't stand found footage, this won't convert you.  But if you're tolerant and able to ignore the carping of crowds of critics, As Above, So Below just might find a place in your heart.


***1/4

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