As Above, So Below (***): Isn’t great, but at least it follows course

as-above-so-below-poster

As Above So Below – 2014

Director John Erick Dowdle
Starring Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar
Screenplay Drew and John Erick Dowdle

Sometimes in the rush to consider a movie a failed venture, we miss the ones that, while not great, certainly are good.  Let’s be honest, the found footage route has more than run it’s course, and unfortunately no one told the Brothers Dowdle.  If they had bypassed this worn out path, things might have gone from good to really good, if not great.

Starting off with Scarlett (Weeks) making her way in bad camouflage into Iran, we discover that she is filming herself attempting to discover a key leading to the key leading to The Philosopher’s Stone.  The Stone is supposed to do some pretty cool stuff, but as we discover, she needs a translator for the Aramaic that she found in the caves under Iran.  This translator comes int the form of her old friend / flame George (Feldman), who is in Paris, breaking into ancient Churches so he can fix bells that haven’t worked in hundreds of years.  Her relationship with the guy filming her, Benji (Hodge) is undecided.  We know they like each other, but the jury is out if it ever means something more.

One thing leads to another, and soon enough they discover that the Philosopher’s Stone is likely located somewhere in some ancient catacombs below Paris.  To go here, they recruit some of the local nightlife, because, well, they need something to do when not hanging out at clubs or sleeping in, I guess.  They discover that this stone is likely in a spot half way between the surface and hell.  One can only imagine where they all end up, when the tagline states “The only way out is down.”

The limitations of the camera aside, the journey in and of itself is interesting.  Where they go and who shows up is often unexplained, but as often just obvious.  The entire journey is interesting, though and one’s mind never wanders from what is on screen.  It provides tense moments, sometimes bordering on fear, without ever being gross. It’s easy to appreciate the mystery behind where they are.  The ending, if a tad under developed, is definitely consistent with the rest of the film.

How much one enjoys As Above… might intersect with how tired they are of the film technique.  Dowdle is competent and provides some confident and relaxed perspectives, but it definitely would have been better and somewhat scarier had they just filmed it straight.

(*** out of *****)

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