As Above, So Below (2014) began well enough. It is not a “found footage” film, but it is in the same vein; the movie consists of the footage of a documentarian who follows Scarlett, the daughter of a prominent historian who specialized in Alchemy, as she continues her late father’s quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone.
Scarlett meets up with an old friend who speaks Aramaic, who reluctantly assists her on the hunt. They discover that there is a hidden chamber somewhere in the restricted zone of the infamous catacombs beneath Paris. This chamber was built centuries ago by a famous alchemist who was believed to have discovered the Stone and, presumably, hid it in the chamber.
Naturally, a rag-tag team is assembled to find the hidden chamber in the catacombs. The trouble begins immediately, since Scarlett does not listen to the advice of the expert guide they enlisted to help them enter and explore the catacombs, and the team wanders into a corridor where people are known to have vanished. In fact, no one has ever come out of that particular corridor alive.
What follows is a disjointed series of events that can best be summarized as a mash-up of The Descent (2005) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). The film also commits the cardinal sin of using “jump scares” (which essentially amounts to someone jumping out and screaming “BOO”). There were a lot of scenes and occurrences that did not bring anything to the story; they were not explained or explored at all, just thrown in to make the movie seem weird.
The real star of the film was Olivia Csiky Trnka. Although she played only a background character, barely a step above of an extra, she managed to steal the scene every time she came on screen. In fact, her character—“Strange Young Woman” according to imdb.com—was both the scariest part of the movie as well as the only thing memorable about the film. Her naturally large, intense eyes were accentuated by her make-up. Her cold, otherworldly presence brought an eeriness to the movie that was unmatched by any of the other effects and cheap startles that the rest of the movie relied upon. It is an utter shame that Ms. Trnka was not used more in the movie; she could have easily carried the entire film on her own, but alas, the filmmakers did not realize the talent that they had.
Another actor that deserves notice is François Civil, who played Papillon, the expert guide into the catacombs. His performance was spot-on and he did bring a lot to the movie. That is not to say that there was a problem with the other actors and actresses in As Above. They all delivered great performances. The main problem with this movie is the random events that were not integrated into the storyline.
The real stinker of this film is the ending, or lack thereof. It felt very abrupt and was quite unsatisfying. A better ending could have redeemed the movie. Despite it all, the movie did have its moments and was watchable. It could have been much better, though.
You can still catch As Above, So Below at Tropicana Cinemas if you are in Las Vegas, or check Fandango for a showing near you.