Darke Reviews – As Above, So Below


There isn’t a lot that scares me when it comes to putting my own life in danger. I think I’d try anything  (relatively) reasonable if I thought it would be fun. Among those hobbies Urban Exploring. In many cases it is breaking and entering/trespassing – yet not always. I *love* the idea of exploring these old abandoned places. Finding history, truth, and perhaps a bit of mystery in them. So when I saw a movie about a group of individuals urban exploring a part of the Paris catacombs I knew I had to see it.

It’s also worth mentioning that of the jobs that exist out there if I couldn’t be a successful writer or what I am doing now didn’t pan out – my dream job is archaeologist. Much for the same reasons of the Urban Exploring. I love history, mythology, ancient cultures, and finding that which was lost or forgotten. So when the movie starts and there’s an archaeology element to it I am now even more interested.

How does it pan out?

This may be director John Erick Dowdle’s best original film. Along with his brother Drew, who co wrote the movie, I think they hit something new. Their earlier work together is Quarantine; which is just a lackluster translation of the superior spanish film REC. John alone directed the abysmal “Devil” (2010). They elevated some of the previous work , but are showing definite trends, which leads me to the technicals first.

I wish I could have watched the film. I had to keep my eyes closed half of it due to motion sickness from the hand held camera work. That is unusual for me, but it is a problem for some members of the audience who would want to see this. Odd camera angles as well as a preference for handheld cameras are showing in the history of his work and finally – it’s to his benefit. When I could watch the film the camera shots were well framed and added to the tension and emotion appropriately.

This being a horror film in the 21st century I have no anticipation that anyone will live, so I am kept on the edge of my seat wondering. Another technical that works really, really well is the fact with only a few exceptions the movie was filmed in the catacombs, even the piano from the trailer was filmed down there. You can’t fake good atmosphere and it shows in this movie. It was a good decision and I am happy that they made it. The dangers for the location scouting alone were real and it adds to the film to realize so much of it is not a set and that the lights in the shots are the ones on the head cams.

The acting was spot on with only a handful of logical fallacies and failures throughout. Ones that almost have to exist to be a successful horror film. Perdita Weeks does well as the driving force and catalyst for the events. Ben Feldman (Cloverfield, Friday the 13th) sadly has a character I just want to smack, but does as well with it as the trope he is playing allows for. François Civil’s Papillion is probably one of the most enjoyable to watch – and the most honest in his reactions.

I think what the movie does best is that, from a story perspective, it openly acknowledges the supernatural. People don’t spend (waste) time denying it exists when blatantly confronted. They react with horror yes, but within the confines of the narrative accept it in all its dark glory. This to me is a pleasant change of pace, especially when tied to an area of study I enjoy.

TL;DR?

Well this review should have gone up last night, but I was left so nauseous that I couldn’t finish. Overall the film is good and for horror fans worth seeing. The audience I was with genuinely seemed to enjoy it.

I just have trouble recommending it due to the camera work.

If you don’t ever risk the sensation of nausea from shaky cam work in excess *and* enjoy horror, absolutely go see it.

If there’s a risk, sorry, just not worth it. Sad that as the attention to detail by using the real catacombs was such a brilliant choice.

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