EXPECTATION: 2.5/5 stars
PROS: Interesting mythological elements
CONS: fueled by clichés, weak characters, no scares
It goes without saying that 2014 has been a weak year for horror movies, with “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones”, and flops “Devil’s Due” and “Oculus”. “As Above/So Below” doesn’t do much to fill that void. The warning “abandon all hope of a scary movie, ye who enter here” should’ve been inscribed above the door to the theater, but director John Dowdle has us follow him through the catacombs of clichés with no apology in sight.
With films such as “Devil” and “Quarantine” in his portfolio, Dowdle has proven that he’s capable of delivering a good amount of suspense and thrills. But with “AA/SB” he leaves creativity at the cave entrance and crawls head first into one bland scene after another. He attempts to create a psychological thriller by tapping into the traumas of each individual character but repeatedly fails to create any frightening or engaging sequences. The catacombs are meant to be a nightmare, but instead they come across like the annual haunted house full of people with robes and masks. And the only way out is down.
If you’re looking for anything in the movie to be interested in then you’ll find a little fascination in the story itself. It’s centered around a girl named Scarlett who has traveled near and far in search of the Philosophers Stone. The mythology surrounding the Philosophers Stone is interesting, and above all this plays out like a hellish, non-adventurous “National Treasure” of sorts. There are puzzles, riddles and keys to be discovered but no sense of urgency to discover it. It’s hard to care about any of the characters, considering that they have as much personality as the bones that they’re crawling in. It’s even more difficult to wrap your head around where exactly the movie intends on leading us since it’s goes nowhere very slowly. And in the fashion of every 2014 horror disappointment, it leaves you unsatisfied.
With films like “V/H/S” still engraved in our memories, “AA/SB” struggles to make even the slightest dent in the “found footage” genre. I appreciate some camera movement when it’s necessary, but many scenes here hurt my eyes and were just confusing. Would the movie have been just as mediocre had it been shot like 2005’s “The Descent”? Maybe. But we’ll never know.
“As Above/ So Below” fails to scare, delivering a weak “found footage” type film full of characters that have as much life as the bones that fill the catacombs.