What do you get when you cross one part Indiana Jones with one part The Decent and one part The Blair Witch Project? If you said, “A gigantic directionless mess of a movie” you would be right, but I would have taken As Above, So Below as a correct answer too.
After a harrowing Dramamine worthy chase through some tunnels in Iran, she goes to Paris to meet up with a former partner, George (Ben Feldman) who is still angry with her for abandoning him years before — thus starting the clock until the two realize they actually love each other, and her cameraman Benjii (Edwin Hodge) who is also black thus starting the countdown to when he will inevitably die.
When they find out that the Philosopher’s Stone is buried somewhere in the Paris Catacombs for some reason, they enlist some guides lead by Papillon (François Civil) and two other expendables to secretly and illegally journey into the dangerous and unexplored sections of the network of tunnels and bones to get it.
This, of course, begs the question of why? Why is this woman going about this all… stupidly and illegally? Why not get a grant? Permits? Qualified help? I would have accepted a bullshit excuse or something, but it’s not even addressed which is one of many leaps we’re required to take sitting through this film.
Obviously, I didn’t like this movie but I would like to pause a moment and go into something I did like about it… it stuck to its theme… As Above, So Below. Granted, it was a stupid theme, but I do admire how they stuck to their guns about it and have to admit that it did lead to a few surprising moments in the movie. I’m not saying that makes this movie a good movie by a long shot, but I am saying that, like a broken clock, it gets it right a precious few times… very briefly.
Once the characters finally get underground where you, as an audience member, expect it to actually get going, the movie falls apart and becomes a series of disconnected events that make little sense and get more and more ridiculous. Through it all, you’re exposed to all of the shaky camera clichés birthed since the days of the Blair Witch. Very little (with the exception of the theme which is still pretty stupid) of this movie is surprising or unexpected and all follows pretty much where you expect it to go.
The stock characters are flat and lifeless as the bones they crawl around in. Most insultingly, the character of Benjii is a paint by numbers cowardly black man straight out of an episode of Hunter or any number of horror movies that should have been relegated to the 1980’s.
But the most offensive thing about As Above, So Below is that, buried under its cliches, cheap startles, and bad characters are the glimmers of a better, scarier movie… the movie that this film should have been but as it is, it’s unpolished, unscary, and a complete mess. The ending is a bit of a mind-fudge, but by the time you get there, you’ll just be slapping your head in frustration at yet another mound of shit being spoon-fed to you.
What did you think?