Movie review: ‘As Above So Below’
September 3, 2014
AS ABOVE, SO BELOW
Directed by John Erick Dowdle
Starring Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, Francois Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, Cosme Castro, Hamidreza Javdan
Rated R, Horror, 93 minutes
In this film, Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) is a young archeologist treating her profession as if it is a thrill-seeking sport. As the film opens, she is riding a public bus into a Middle Eastern country while informing the camera, via her documentarian, that the discovery of her presence would result in her execution. Over the next 10 minutes, Scarlett makes little effort to hide from her would-be persecutors or take other reasonable measures to preserve her life. She insists upon retrieving an archeological prize from an underground location rigged with dynamite even though an alarm, warning that the blast is imminent, blares loudly.
Scarlett barely survives the blast, yet rushes to Paris, where she intends to illegally infiltrate the city's underground catacombs because she is certain the "Philosopher's Stone" is hidden there.
Legend, along with Scarlett's deceased father's notes, claims the stone confers immortality and that it can change lead into gold. Bolstered by boyfriend George (Ben Feldman), with her cameraman Benji (Edwin Hodge) in tow, Scarlett hires a group of adventuresome young Parisians for guidance to a hidden area of the catacombs she is convinced will lead her to the stone.
The underground passageways, lined with human bones, also house troubled souls of both living and nonliving sorts. Problem is the oddities exhibited by Scarlett and other members of her group, with their lust for treasure, make it difficult to distinguish them from those standing in as evil. Nor can we sympathize with their unbridled self interest.
Riddles that may allow Scarlett and company to find the stone and survive the evil spirits that haunt the catacombs are proposed and solved more quickly than viewers can process the puzzles, let alone comprehend the solutions. Unlike the "The Mummy" films, which took a tongue-in-cheek approach toward the ancient curses impeding its heroes, "As Above, So Below" has the poor judgment to take its quest seriously, no matter how laughable the result.
A few good visuals have their moments, but 100 minutes of slow-going action is enough to make any viewer want to hide under the bed.