As Above, So Below (film)
As Above, So Below is a 2014 American horror film written and directed by John Erick Dowdle and co-written by his brother Drew. It is presented as found footage of a documentary crew's experience exploring the Catacombs of Paris and was loosely based on the seven layers of Hell. 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, and stars Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert, and Ali Marhyar.
|As Above, So Below|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Erick Dowdle|
|Music by||Keefus Ciancia|
|Edited by||Elliot Greenberg|
Brothers Dowdle Productions
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$41.8–41.9 million|
Scarlett Marlowe illegally enters Iran to explore a historical cave system before the regime demolishes it. Minutes before the destruction of the caves, she finds a legendary statue within known as the "Rose Key," bearing ancient engravings in the Aramaic language. Scarlett successfully records the Rose Key inscriptions on video and flees, but when a strange man appears to call for her from the caves, she is caught in the collapse of the cave and just narrowly escapes. Before she gets out, however, she sees a vision of her father's suicide - a moment from her past that she will have to confront later on.
Months later, Scarlett is filming a documentary with her cameraman Benji. The introduction reveals she is a young but accomplished professor of archaeology and an alchemy scholar with multiple Doctor of Philosophy degrees (Phds) and fluency in four languages. Scarlett is interested in continuing her father's hunt for the philosopher's stone after his suicide. The stone is a legendary alchemical substance capable of turning base metals into gold or silver and of granting eternal life, said to have been discovered by Nicolas Flamel.
Scarlett travels to Paris to find George, her former lover and an Aramaic translator, so that she can decipher the Rose Key. She finds him repairing a centuries-old church bell tower. With the Rose Key's translated text and information from Flamel's headstone, Scarlett deciphers the philosopher's stone is 370 meters below-ground in the Catacombs of Paris. The trio attend an official tour of the catacombs, but the section thought to contain the stone is off-limits. A stranger in the catacombs suggests that a man named Papillon can help and that he spends time in a certain club. When their backs are turned, the man disappears and they are forced to rejoin the tour.
Scarlett convinces Papillon that they will find treasure in the catacombs. Papillon, his girlfriend Souxie, and friend Zed take Scarlett, George, and Benji to an entrance for the off-limits section of the catacombs hidden inside a train tunnel. George refuses to go because his brother drowned in a cave, but he is forced to come with the group when a policeman attempts to stop them. Zed throws flashbangs through the hole to discourage pursuit. Upon entering, Papillon immediately shows the group some female cultists singing in the tunnels.
As they continue deciphering riddles to proceed, they find a blocked tunnel and another barely passable tunnel strewn with bones. Scarlett believes breaching the first tunnel would cut hours from their travel time. However, Papillion refuses to go that way, as anyone who has gone through was never seen again. Papillion explains that his friend La Taupe ("The Mole") lived in the caves for years, but still disappeared after he decided to explore the blocked tunnel.
After Benji gets stuck in the tunnel filled with bones, it collapses behind them, and the group somehow finds themselves at the blocked tunnel again with no other way forward. They breach the blockage and find Papillon's graffiti tag on the wall, even though he insists he has never been there. Suddenly, the group hears a telephone ringing in the abandoned caves. When Scarlett finds and answers the phone, a man (who is later revealed to be her father) asks why she won't answer his calls. Scarlett hangs up, rattled. The crew come across a piano at the site where more than a hundred people fell to their deaths when the building above collapsed over a century ago, a piano that George believes is the same one he played on as a child with his younger brother. Shortly after La Taupe appears before them alive, but dazed and blank-faced. La Taupe agrees to guide them out and informs them the only way out is down.
They eventually find a tomb with a well-preserved Templar Knight, a mound of treasure, and what Scarlett believes to be Flamel's Stone embedded in a mural depicting an ancient legend. Removing the stone, Scarlett realizes too late that the treasure is a trap, and the room collapses. La Taupe is lost under the rubble along with their supplies, and Souxie is seriously injured. Using the Flamel Stone, Scarlett magically heals Souxie's injuries.
They find a drawing of a door on the ceiling along with a Gnostic Star of David, symbolizing "As above, so below", revealing a door hidden in the floor. Going through the opening, they find a passage marked with the phrase "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" in Greek, identical to the entrance to Hell in Dante's Inferno.
Despite Papillon's reluctance, Scarlett crawls through the tunnel and leads the group into a dark reflection of the room they left, which somehow seals behind them, effectively trapping them. Here they find a living La Taupe, whom the group presumed to be dead. When Souxie reaches out to touch La Taupe, he brutally kills her before disappearing in the narrow tunnels. Scarlett attempts to revive her but quickly realizes the stone cannot bring back the dead. The survivors realize they must continue and go even deeper to escape.
At this point they are now one thousand meters underground, passing through what George calls "mirror images" of areas they have already been earlier. Along the way, while the group rappels down a hole, Benji catches a glimpse of a female cultist holding a baby before falling to his death. George finds his deceased brother under a pile of bones, but Scarlett convinces him it is an illusion before he can dig it up. Next, the group encounters a burning car. Inside is a man who looks similar to the stranger that directed Scarlett to Papillon. Papillon recognizes the car and the man from an incident in his past. When he cries out that the incident was not his fault, Papillion is sucked into the car, which then crumples and merges into the ground so that only Papillon's legs can be seen sticking out of the floor. The remaining crew flee.
George confesses to Scarlett that whatever should happen to them down here, their previous trip to Turkey was the best time of his life, and Scarlett agrees. As the trio continue on, the walls become visibly imprinted with tortured faces and disembodied screams shatter their nerves. They come across a demonic, humanoid abomination sitting in a chair. When it rises, the group runs and hides, but a face in the wall breaks out and tears open George's throat with its teeth. While Scarlett and Zed drag George to relative safety, they discover the stone will not heal his injuries. George murmurs the acronym "Vitriol", which in Latin refers to the philosopher's stone being discovered by rectification, (as in correction). Scarlett realizes the Flamel Stone itself is yet another riddle, and only by returning it to its original spot will she find the real stone.
Scarlett, now alone, races back to the crypt where she found the Flamel Stone. Along the way, she finds a hanged man, whom she recognizes as her father. After nearly being drowned in a river of blood by an unseen force, she makes her way to the crypt and returns the Flamel Stone to its place in the mural. Underneath the stone's setting she notices a polished mirror surface, and realizes she has the magical abilities of the stone within herself now. On her way back to George and Zed, Scarlett passes her father's apparition on her way and apologizes for her failure to answer his phone calls when he was struggling with suicidal thoughts. She returns to her friends, kisses George, and lays her hands on his neck, healing him. Echoing sounds continue to heighten as Scarlett, George, and Zed press on to find a way out. They reach a dead end only to find a seemingly bottomless hole. George and Zed are convinced that it's impossible to rope their way down the hole. Scarlett explains that they must confront what torments them to escape the reflected reality. George reflects on how his brother drowned because he got lost when going for help, and Zed confesses he has been denying responsibility for a bastard child.
Hooded demons chase them, and the group jumps down the hole. Though the fall should be too deep to survive, they reach the bottom alive. Eventually, Scarlett, George, and Zed find a manhole on the floor, which when pushed down and climbed through delivers them right-side up onto the surface, on a street overlooking the Notre Dame. After a group hug, Scarlett and George embrace each other while Zed wanders away, finally safe. In a past log, Scarlett states that her mission is to find the truth.
- Perdita Weeks as Scarlett Marlowe, a very accomplished scholar in search of the philosopher's stone. She is clever but reckless in her pursuit for the truth
- 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, their guide through the catacombs of Paris
- 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
With permission from the French authorities the film was shot in the real catacombs of Paris. 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. As Ben Feldman suffered from claustrophobia, he had to keep taking breaks to cope.
The first trailer of the film was revealed on April 24, 2014. 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.
As Above, So Below was released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 2, 2014.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 26% based on 77 reviews and an average rating of 4.42/10. The website's critical consensus states, "After an intriguing setup that threatens to claw its way out of found-footage overkill, As Above, So Below plummets into clichéd mediocrity." On Metacritic, the film has a rating of 38 out of 100 based on 23 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews."
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." 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. 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." 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. 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." 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." 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."
The film grossed $8.3 million its opening weekend, finishing in 3rd place. As of November 4, 2014, the film had grossed $21.2 million in North America and $18.9 million in other territories, for a total gross of $40.1 million.
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