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'As Above, So Below' review: Sloppy spelunking, inefficient demons

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As Above, So Below

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"As Above, So Below" began its theatrical run across the country starting today.

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An explorer named Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) is driven by the desire to discover The Philosopher's stone. Its research and whereabouts cost Scarlett's father her life, so Scarlett not only wants to prove that her father wasn't crazy but that the stone actually exists.

Scarlett's journey sends her deep beneath the earth's surface and into the catacombs of Paris. She believes that the stone lies within a hidden tunnel in a room filled with treasure. Accompanying her is her translator George (Ben Feldman), her cameraman Benji (Edwin Hodge), their guide/graffiti artist Papillon (Francois Civil), and his crew Souxie (Marion Lambert) and Zed (Ali Marhyar).

Legend has it that the catacombs are the home to over six million corpses and that begins to affect the mindset of Scarlett and the rest of her team. Could the Gates of Hell and the Philosopher's stone lie within the depths of the catacombs or is it all just urban legend?

"As Above, So Below" is already fighting an uphill battle since it's a found footage horror film. If shaky cameras have ever bothered you before then this film isn't about to change your opinion. Perhaps the most disappointing factor of the film is that it shows potential by adding a few elements that aren't complete horror clichés to try and make the film memorable and entertaining. Unfortunately, "As Above, So Below" isn't able to capitalize on much of anything promising and is just another run of the mill horror film dumped into theaters in late August.

Besides the sensation of claustrophobia the film relies on to scare its viewers, it may also draw comparisons to Neil Marshall's "The Descent" for featuring a strong female lead. Scarlett is not only adventurous, but she's fearless. She dives headfirst into a lot of situations that the rest of her mostly male team refuses to do. Her gung ho attitude is a welcome addition to the usual helpless and damsel in distress type female characters featured in horror films.

The found footage allows the cramped spaces to really take hold of the audience and make them feel like they're right along with Scarlett and her team unable to breathe amongst all of the human bones and rats. The disorientation is never really clarified though. The catacombs seem to bring the memories of anyone who enters the caves right along with them. They usually take the shape of someone's biggest regrets or fears. These fears are brought to life and typically cost that person their life because they've never been able to get over it.

The film should receive some credit for including alchemy since that isn't something you see in movies like this very often, but "As Above, So Below" seems to make things too outrageous at times and gets carried away. While fear preys on its victims, the most memorable sequences in the film defy logic that are only explained by a blaring trumpet and some cautionary text chiseled in stone in Aramaic.

In between squeezing its audience into tight spaces and giving everyone a panic attack, "As Above, So Below" relies on predictable jump scares and overused shaky camera techniques to attempt a terrifying experience. Perdita Weeks is a strong and capable female lead, the film manages to borrow concepts from "The Blair Witch Project" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and put its own spin on them, and the addition of alchemy is both warranted and a breath of fresh air to the horror franchise, but "As Above, So Below" mostly resorts to cliché tactics when it has so much more right within its grasp.

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