The Paris Catacombs and others around the world like them are some of the spookiest locations on earth. Because of this, you might be wondering why it has taken so long or a horror movie to be set there.
After all, claustrophobia and labyrinths are an easy way to push people’s buttons. Enter As Above, So Below, a 2014 horror film that mixes this location with the idea of hell.
It’s another found footage movie, which although in recent years had gone out of vogue, was all the rage in the late 2000s and early 2010s. So how good does this concept end up?
Is it a horror classic, or just another found footage movie trying to stake its claim in the ground where classics like Blair Witch began?
In this review, we’re going to give you a complete overview of the story, production, and performances so you can see if it’s the right chiller for you!
A team of various explorers ventures together into the Paris Catacombs in search of the philosopher’s stone.
After some difficulty setting up the team and entering the catacombs, they delve deeper into the depths of this underground world and find that things are not what they were expecting.
Having to fight through frightful cultists, they eventually find that a certain part of the catacombs has a direct relationship with hell. Soon enough the team is fighting for their lives.
Without going into spoiler territory, the main thing to say about the screenplay is that teeters on the edge of explorer fantasy and classic found-footage horror.
This is both a positive and a negative, as you’re sometimes left wondering what the real heart of the movie is trying to be. The characters and dialogue are all fairly realistic, but there is an undercurrent of mysticism that is never truly expanded upon.
In some ways, this is a symptom of the movie’s penchant for mystery.
It’s trying to keep the catacombs and the nightmare our main characters have fallen into something unknown, ancient, and unpredictable, but there is a lack of emotional connection to the events unfolding that might leave you a little confused or cold.
The first thing you should know is that this is the first-ever movie to have been granted official permission from the french government to film inside the Paris Catacombs.
This is one of the things that sets it apart from other movies – its inherent authenticity. Found footage movies rely on realism to work, which is one of the main reasons why horror fans have loved the technique.
As Above So Below uses the claustrophobic location to maximum effect, with a lot of similarities to something like The Descent in the visceral reactions if conjures for audiences.
The technical difficulties of filming on location are not to be understated here, as it has been revealed that the cast and crew went without phone signal or internet connection.
Some of the cast members also suffered from claustrophobia, which must have been difficult to manage.
Thankfully, the arduous aspects of the production really just add to the overall feel of the movie and allow the actors to give some great performances.
It’s shot as a found footage movie which can be either a positive or a negative depending on your personal tastes.
The way this movie is filmed is a lot less subtle than something like Blair Witch, with more professional-looking picture quality and better sound design – but it’s shaky enough to make the footage seem believable.
Like any found footage movie, the acting has to be realistic in order for it to work. Each of the central actors in this movie does a great job of portraying realistic people who find themselves in a supernatural scenario.
The standouts here are Perdita Weeks as Scarlett Marlowe, whose obsession with her scholarly interests drives her into more dangerous situations, and Ben Feldman as George, whose terror during a lot of the scenes can be felt through the screen.
Overall this is a worthy entry into the found-footage section of the horror genre.
It’s not doing anything particularly new or spinning the genre in a way that will make your jaw drop, but the grim atmosphere and believable claustrophobia of the Paris Catacombs is enough to make it a distressing experience.
The biggest shortcomings of this story are in its vague plot and underutilized overall concept – but there is enough here to make it worth watching.
In conclusion, we’d say this is a great movie to watch if you’re looking for something similar to The Descent or The Cave, that will really push your fear of enclosed spaces.
If you liked this article, you might enjoy our post on ‘Creep Movie Review‘.