Found footage films are a polarizing subgenre. It seems people either hate them, or love them. While it’s a great way to place the viewer into characters perspective, it has to be done right so as to not make the viewer nauseous, bored – or both. In 2014, perhaps at the end of people’s obsession with POV angles, As Above, So Below was released. The film follows a group of explorers traveling deep beneath Paris into the infamous catacombs. With an incredible backdrop, the film is a disorienting thriller that messes with you every step of the way.
Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), a scholar and explorer, is on the hunt for the philosopher’s stone. The legendary material is thought to be hidden beneath the streets of Paris, and she’s going to find it. Along with her cameraman Benji (Edwin Hodge), ex-boyfriend George (Ben Feldman), a guide and his friends, they venture within the tunnels of the catacombs.
The catacombs themselves hold more than just a possible mystical treasure, it also houses over six million human remains. They will soon find that it has many more secrets to uncover as they travel deeper and deeper. When the group begins to see and hear unexplainable things, things that cannot be possible, they begin to realize they’ve made a grave mistake.
It’s a bit Indian Jones meets The Descent meets The Blair Witch Project – a fun adventure film with horror elements. It’s incredibly disorienting following the group further and further inside the catacombs. The setting begins to play intense claustrophobic tricks on both the characters and viewer. It’s one of the better found footage films I’ve seen, where the camerawork provides an intimacy it needs for such a closed off space.
While the film offers up some solid scares, I think its more noteworthy frights are the ones of psychological nature. In which the characters begin to be tormented by the tunnels in ways they will relive some of their most emotional past trauma.
I think the film mainly suffered from handheld exhaustion. It had been played to death at that point, where no one was being inventive with it, only relying on it. It still is very dizzying, and if you’re someone who gets queasy, it may not be for you. However the film as a whole is a great watch and one that shouldn’t be so easily written off.
You can watch As Above, So Below on Netflix now.