Scarlett is a young scholar who continues her dead father’s search for the philosopher’s stone (a legendary alchemical substance discovered by Nicolas Flamel, which supposedly has the powers to turn metals into gold or silver, and granting eternal life). She travels to Paris, and together with her ex boyfriend George and Benji, the cameraman, they go to the Catacombs of Paris. Scarlett had earlier found the “Rose Key”: an artifact that has some codes which, upon using them to solve a riddle on Flame’s headstone, gives them some coordinates that points to an area inside the Catacombs. But of course, this specific area proves to be off-limits. With the help of a stranger, they get in contact with a guide, Papillon, who will take them to an off-limits entrance. Crawling through a narrow tunnel, they are pushed forward as it collapses, and they end up in an area with a blocked tunnel. Finding no other way to leave, they decide to break through the tunnel…and what they find further inside is more hellish than they could have imagined.
As Above, So Below is a found footage horror film from 2014, which was actually the first production ever that secured permission from the French government to film in the catacombs (a place we actually visited some years back, a delightful experience). As part of the promotion for the film, Felix Kjellberg (AKA PewDiePie) traveled through the Paris Catacombs. The film is directed by John Eric Dowdle, who previously directed The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Quarantine, and Devil.
The film incorporates several things, including a little bit of Egyptian history, Knights of Templar, mythology, religion, and of course it draws some obvious inspiration from Dante’s Inferno. Trapped inside some really claustrophobic areas, where the characters are pushed further and further into the complexity of Hell itself, makes for a suspenseful viewing. There’s a lot of atmosphere here and scenes that are both creepy an sometimes even outright scary, with madness and paranoia taking over their resolve. The claustrophobic feeling is genuine and really creepy.
As Above, So Below is a pretty decent found footage horror film with a little bit of an adventurous side to it, which makes it feel like a “National Treasure meets Blair Witch” kind of thing, with a reminiscence of The Descent and The Tunnel. It blends several pieces of mythology with well-executed symbolism, and of course excellent use of scenery as it was filmed in the real Catacombs of Paris with little use of props. Due to its heavy symbolism and use of mythological aspects it may not cater to everyone, of course, but we found it to be a thrilling little ride.
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Writer: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Country & year: France, USA, 2014
Actors: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, Cosme Castro, Hamid Djavadan, Théo Cholbi, Emy Lévy, Roger Van Hool, Olivia Csiky Trnka, Hellyette Bess