As Above, So Below (film)

As Above, So Below is a 2014 American horror film[6] written and directed by John Erick Dowdle and co-written by his brother Drew. The film stars Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert, and Ali Marhyar. The title refers to the popular paraphrase of the second verse of the Emerald Tablet. It is presented as found footage of a documentary crew's experience exploring the Catacombs of Paris and was loosely based on the nine circles of Hell from Dante Alighieri's epic 14th-century poem Divine Comedy.[7] The film was produced by Legendary Pictures and distributed by Universal Pictures, making it the first film in Legendary's deal with Universal. The film was released on August 29, 2014,[8][9] received negative reviews from critics and grossed $41 million worldwide against its $5 million budget.

As Above, So Below
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Erick Dowdle
Written by
  • Drew Dowdle
  • John Erick Dowdle
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyLéo Hinstin
Edited byElliot Greenberg
Music byKeefus Ciancia
Production
companies
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • August 29, 2014 (2014-08-29)
Running time
93 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States[3]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$5–10 million[4][5]
Box office$41.9 million[6]

Plot

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Scarlett Marlowe is a young scholar, continuing her dead father's search for the philosopher's stone, a legendary alchemical substance discovered by the alchemist Nicolas Flamel. The reputed stone is allegedly capable of turning base metals into gold or silver and granting eternal life. Scarlett discovers the "Rose Key" artifact in a cave slated for demolition, but after she sees a vision of a hanged man, the demolition begins and she narrowly escapes.

Scarlett travels to Paris. She enlists her former lover George and her cameraman Benji. Using codes from the key, they solve a riddle on Flamel's headstone and get coordinates pointing to the Catacombs of Paris. Scarlett tries to reach the location on an official tour, but it is off-limits. A stranger tells them that a cataphile named Papillon will help them if they find him at a nearby club. The three visit the club and recruit Papillon, his girlfriend Souxie, and their friend Zed.

Papillon takes the group to an off-limits entrance. George initially refuses to enter, but when a policeman confronts them, the group escapes into the catacombs. They encounter singing female cultists, including a woman they saw at the club (Representing condemned souls and angels of the First Vestibule of Hell). The group finds a blocked tunnel. Scarlett removes a brick to unseal the tunnel, but Papillon explains that people who go through that tunnel disappear. His friend La Taupe ("The Mole") is among the missing. The group takes an alternate route through a narrow tunnel, but it collapses behind them, nearly killing Benji. Inexplicably, they find themselves in front of the same blocked tunnel and are left with no choice but to break through.

Inside, the group finds La Taupe, a condemned ghost trapped within the purgatorial catacombs. He tells them going further down is the only way out. They eventually find a tomb with a preserved Templar Knight, a mound of treasure, and the Flamel Stone. Scarlett takes the stone, but when Papillon's group tries to take the treasure, they trigger a trap that causes the ceiling to collapse. La Taupe seems lost under the rubble.

Using the Flamel Stone, Scarlett is able to supernaturally heal a wound on Souxie's arm. They find a drawing of a door on the ceiling along with a Gnostic Star of David, symbolizing "As above, so below", which reveals a hidden opening in the floor. Going through, they find a tunnel marked with the phrase "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" in Greek, identical to the script on the entrance to Hell in Dante's Inferno.

On the other side of the tunnel, the group finds an upside-down reflection of the treasure room, where La Taupe is waiting. He kills Souxie and disappears. As they descend deeper, the cultist from the club pushes Benji to his death. Papillon is then sucked into a burning car by an apparition resembling the stranger who had told Scarlett to find Papillon. The car implodes and buries Papillon in the floor. Scarlett, George, and Zed proceed deeper into the tunnels and see apparitions of terrifying spirits and demons. Statues in the wall come to life, and one rips open George's throat. Scarlett tries to heal the wound with the Flamel Stone, but cannot. She realizes she had stolen a false stone, and must return it to its original place to find the real stone and heal George.

Scarlett races back, finding the tunnels are now flooded with blood and covered in biting faces. When she returns the stone, she sees a mirror and realizes the true power of the Flamel Stone is within her. As she returns to George and Zed, she sees the same hanged man that she saw in Iran, and recognizes him as her father. She apologizes for ignoring his phone call shortly before he committed suicide, and her father vanishes. Scarlett then returns to George, instantly healing him with a kiss.

Chased by demons, the three survivors are cornered in front of a dark hole. Scarlett explains that they must jump in and confess their past sins to escape alive. George confesses that he failed to save his brother from drowning, and Zed confesses that he has an illegitimate child he has refused to claim. They jump into the hole and miraculously survive. They find a manhole at the bottom, which opens up to the streets of Paris. Scarlett and George hold each other while Zed walks away, finally safe.

In an ending log, Scarlett says that she never ventured to seek or obtain any material treasure, only the truth.

Cast

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  • Perdita Weeks as Scarlett Marlowe, an accomplished scholar in search of the philosopher's stone. She is clever but reckless in her pursuit for the philosopher's stone.
  • Ben Feldman as George, Scarlett's ex, and an Aramaic translator with a hobby for breaking into old buildings to repair things.
  • Edwin Hodge as Benji, Scarlett's cameraman and tech specialist
  • François Civil as Papillon, a cataphile and the group's guide through the Paris catacombs
  • Marion Lambert as Souxie, Papillon's girlfriend
  • Ali Marhyar as Zed, Papillon's friend
  • Pablo Nicomedes as La Taupe, Papillon's friend who lived in the Paris catacombs for five years until his disappearance down a disused tunnel
  • Hamidreza Javdan as Reza
  • Roger Van Hool as Scarlett's father, once a scholar in pursuit of the philosopher's stone, now deceased
  • Samuel Aouizerate as Danny, George's younger brother who drowned when George was still a child
  • Kaya Blocksage as The Curator
  • Théo Cholbi as The Mysterious Teenager

Production

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Development

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The brothers John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle always wanted to make a documentary-style or found footage Indiana Jones-type film with a female lead.[10] Thomas Tull, the head of Legendary Pictures, called them and said he would love to do something in the Parisian catacombs, and the brothers said that it would be perfect if the characters were searching for something down there, which turned out to be Nicholas Flamel's philosopher's stone that leads the film's main character, Scarlett Marlowe (portrayed by Perdita Weeks), into the catacombs.[10]

The film was directed by John Erick Dowdle and co-written by him and Drew Dowdle.[10] It was produced by Legendary Pictures and distributed by Universal Pictures, making it the first film in Legendary's deal with Universal.[4] The film's estimated production budget was $5–10 million.[4] The film went from the pitch to a director's cut in seven months.[11]

Filming

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The film was shot in Paris for two months in 2013.[12][13] With permission from the French authorities, the film was shot in the real catacombs of Paris,[14][10] making it the first film to get permission to shoot in the off-limits area.[10] There was very little use of props, as the actors had to use the environment around them. Production in the actual catacombs was difficult for the cast and especially the crew as there was no electricity or cell phone service in the centuries-old tunnels.[14] The filmmakers decided they would not bring lights to the catacombs and would just film it documentary-style, with a realistic approach to the camera and lighting.[10] Many scenes were lit up by the actors themselves with their head lamps.[10]

The only entrance to one of the main locations in the catacombs was through the parking lot of an hospital. "We would go into the trailers and get covered in blood, dust, scars, and gore, and then grab our coffees, and have a leisurely stroll through a hospital parking lot past doctors and patients all staring at us. We were just covered in blood and walking past all these people who could theoretically save us," Ben Feldman said.[12] Feldman said that it was claustrophobic, cold, wet, tight, uncomfortable and there were no bathrooms in the catacombs,[12] but that nobody had any major claustrophobia issues down there.[15] Drew Dowdle said it was very hard spending four hours down in the catacombs and then coming out into Parisian June, and that they could not handle any sunlight and became "mole people".[10]

John Erick Dowdle said that both the actors and the crew were asked if they were claustrophobic, and then they did a wardrobe test underground to make sure they were not. The director said that one of the actors was not very comfortable down there, so they decided to make him claustrophobic in the film. While on set, the actor had to take a moment and calm himself. John Erick Dowdle said that they could feel his anxiety. "That particular actor had the most claustrophobic scene in the movie and he seemed to really enjoy what it did for his performance. His performance was so solid and I don't think it was much acting," Drew Dowdle said. The actor's name was not revealed.[13]

Some scenes were a total surprise for the actors, such as the scene with the all-female choir singing naked in the catacombs. The actors were kept in another part of the caves while the crew was setting up the shot, then they were told, "You know your lines, you know what's happening in the scene, go in that direction and it'll happen".[16]

A real car was taken to the catacombs to be set on fire with an actor in it. Pyrotechnics were used and Director John Erick Dowdle tested it on himself first.[17]

Other filming locations in Paris were the Fontaine des Innocents, the Père Lachaise Cemetery, the Musée de Cluny, the Pont Alexandre III and the Eiffel Tour.[18]

Marketing and distribution

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The first trailer of the film was revealed on April 24, 2014.[19] YouTuber PewDiePie and his wife Marzia Bisognin promoted the film by embarking on a quest into the catacombs, where they would be scared in a variety of ways.[20]

As Above, So Below was released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 2, 2014.[21]

Reception

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Critical response

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On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 28% based on 80 reviews, and an average rating of 4.70/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "After an intriguing setup that threatens to claw its way out of found-footage overkill, As Above, So Below plummets into clichéd mediocrity."[22] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 39 out of 100 based on 24 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[23] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C−" on an A+ to F scale.[24]

Peter Debruge gave the film a mixed review in Variety, writing, "It all makes for clumsy-fun escapism, not bad as end-of-summer chillers go, but small-time compared with other Legendary releases." Debruge also called the ending "unspeakably corny".[25] Kyle Anderson's review in Entertainment Weekly stated, "As Above has some genuine scares. The stakes begin as gut-wrenchingly real with the team feeling disoriented hundreds of meters beneath the streets, but the film gets downright silly once the caverns become malevolently sentient."[26] Bruce Demara wrote in The Toronto Star, "As Above, So Below has some good scares and a decent cast. But it's yet another found footage thriller, so jittery camera sequences may induce nausea."[27] Peter Bradshaw stated in The Guardian, "There are some interestingly contrived moments of claustrophobia and surreal lunacy, but this clichéd and slightly hand-me-down script neither scares nor amuses very satisfyingly."[28] Drew Hunt expressed similar sentiments in The Chicago Reader, writing "An intriguing and intensely creepy premise is squandered on this rudimentary found-footage horror film."[29] Terry Staunton gave the film a mildly positive review in Radio Times, stating, "It's a perfectly serviceable addition to the 'found footage' genre of chillers from director/co-writer John Erick Dowdle (Devil), who puts cameras in each character's helmet, allowing quick cuts from one scene to another. But despite the claustrophobia of the setting, he never quite racks up enough tension for a full-on fright-fest."[30] The entertainment oriented website JoBlo wrote, "Not the worst example of found footage by a long shot, and it moves a decent pace with a couple of good scares. However, this could have been a far more frightening feature if only it had expanded on its scary premise."[31]

Box office

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The film grossed $8.3 million its opening weekend, finishing in third place. It went on to gross $21.3 million in North America and $20.6 million in other territories, for a total gross of $41.9 million.[6]

References

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  1. ^ a b Mintzer, Jordan (August 20, 2014). "As Above, So Below: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 17, 2023.
  2. ^ "AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (15)". Universal Studios. British Board of Film Classification. Archived from the original on February 20, 2023. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  3. ^ "As Above/So Below (2014)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Kroll, Justin (April 22, 2013). "Legendary and the Dowdle Brothers to Make Low Budget Thriller". Variety. Archived from the original on December 24, 2014. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
  5. ^ "As Above, So Below - The Numbers". Archived from the original on November 5, 2019. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c "As Above, So Below". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on August 12, 2019. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  7. ^ Schaefer, Sandy (October 31, 2023). "As Above, So Below Ending Explained: Raiders Of The Lost Philosopher's Stone". Slash Film.
  8. ^ Kroll, Justin (January 30, 2013). "Legendary, Universal Date Guillermo del Toro's 'Crimson Peak' for October 2015". Variety. Archived from the original on March 6, 2014. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
  9. ^ The Deadline Team (June 26, 2014). "Universal Pulls 'The Loft' From Sked, Moves Legendary Pic 'As Above/So Below' Into Slot". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Collis, Clark (August 28, 2014). "'As Above So Below': How they shot in the Paris catacombs". Entertainment Weekly.
  11. ^ Hewitt, Chris (August 27, 2014). "The Dowdle brothers: the Twin Cities' OTHER sibling filmmakers". Twin Cities.
  12. ^ a b c Rathe, Adam (August 26, 2014). "On Location with Ben Feldman | We go deep beneath Paris on the set of As Above, So Below". DuJour Magazine.
  13. ^ a b Ellwood, Gregory (August 20, 2014). "'As Above/So Below' directors: guess that actor's claustrophobia helped his performance". Uproxx.
  14. ^ a b "Filming in the Paris Catacombs for As Above, So Below". Motion Picture Association. August 13, 2014. Archived from the original on December 3, 2022. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  15. ^ "Press roundtable - Catacombes – Our talk with Ben Feldman". Mulderville. August 4, 2014.
  16. ^ Ferris, Glen (August 28, 2014). "As Above So Below Is Inspired by Dan Brown and Indiana Jones". ScifiNow.
  17. ^ "John and Drew Dowdle on catacomb shooting in 'As Above, So Below'". YouTube. August 15, 2014.
  18. ^ "Catacombes". Film France CNC (in French).
  19. ^ Anderton, Ethan (April 24, 2014). "Explorers Find the Gate to Hell in 'As Above, So Below' Horror Trailer". Firstshowing.net. Archived from the original on April 26, 2014. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
  20. ^ Bauckhage, Tobias (August 29, 2014). "Social Media Buzz: 'November Man' Labors to Overcome 'As Above, So Below'". Variety. Variety Media, LLC. Archived from the original on October 10, 2014. Retrieved March 16, 2015.
  21. ^ "As Above, So Below DVD Release Date December 2, 2014". DVDs Release Dates. Archived from the original on March 25, 2020. Retrieved March 25, 2020.
  22. ^ "As Above, So Below (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  23. ^ "As Above, So Below Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on September 5, 2014. Retrieved September 4, 2014.
  24. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "As Above" in the search box). CinemaScore. Archived from the original on April 13, 2022. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  25. ^ Debruge, Peter (August 20, 2014). "Film Review: 'As Above, So Below'". Variety. Archived from the original on March 26, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  26. ^ Anderson, Kyle (September 12, 2014). "As Above, So Below". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on September 28, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  27. ^ DeMara, Bruce (August 29, 2014). "As Above, So Below nauseating for the wrong reasons: review". The Star. Archived from the original on September 28, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  28. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (August 28, 2014). "As Above, So Below review - neither scares nor amuses very satisfyingly". The Guardian. Archived from the original on March 14, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  29. ^ Drew Hunt (June 29, 2014). "As Above/So Below". The Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on September 28, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  30. ^ Terry Staunton (August 6, 2014). "As Above, So Below". Radio Times. Archived from the original on March 30, 2019. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  31. ^ JimmyO (August 29, 2014). "Review: As Above, So Below". JoBlo. Archived from the original on March 30, 2019. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
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