As Above, So Below could have been called Indiana Jones and the Day Trip to Hell. Although this latest found-footage horror flick is nowhere near as excellent as the Jones films (yes, including Crystal Skulls) it has many of the same elements, which handled correctly could have made for a better film.
It begins by introducing us to student of alchemy and intrepid explorer Scarlett, as she races through an Iranian cave to find an artefact before it’s blown up by the government. From there we head to Paris, as she begins to recruit a team to accompany her into the underground catacombs in the search for the legendary philosopher’s stone.
So far, so good. It’s a shame, then, that from the point that she and her fellow adventurers stumble across the gates of hell, the film is reduced to the same run of the mill scares we’ve seen recycled time and time again. The claustrophobic setting is used to great effect, but has been used better in films like The Descent, or more recently, The Borderlands.
I won’t lie, it did make me jump a couple of times, but that’s due to my cowardice rather than how scary this is. If you were to take away the labyrinth of dark corridors and tight spaces, all you’re left with is a less than average horror film with zero suspense.
The most frustrating element is the unfulfilled promise of some strong and intelligent characters. The two main figures of interest, Scarlett and George, are introduced to us as brave and clever, yet they end up making the same profoundly stupid mistakes you’d expect from the teenage babysitter in a slasher film. I mean, you see a dark tunnel with the gates of hell written over it, and yet you still want to go down there?
The rest of the team have such paper-thin development that you can basically spot who is going to be disposed of, in which order, straight away.
Much like a ghost train, As Above, So Below offers serviceable scares at the time but is ultimately forgettable. What could have been something great unfortunately ends up as nothing more than a descent into hell for both the characters and the audience.
Image from http://www.comingsoon.net