Steadicam filmmaking, or the concept of making the shooting appear amateurish and in the moment, has become the latest trend in filmmaking. When done correctly, it transports the audience to the world of the unfolding story. Unfortunately, it can still turn audiences into queasy masses. Why filmmakers decided to abandon stable framing is beyond comprehension. What type of framing can be established when the cameraman is running and holding the lens like a football?
Horror films are known for taking tired tropes and running them into the ground. The very genre birthed, and is now killing, the found footage subgenre. It’s reached the point that found footage films are actually turning audiences away for the sake of saving their money and Dramamine for a home movie night. The latest entry in the Steadicam/found footage isn’t quite as cliché-filled as it would appear.
“As Above, So Below” follows the route of a fictional documentary. Scarlett is an ambitious young woman who is following in the footsteps of her father. The majority of his life he chased the Philosopher’s Stone that has almost mystic qualities. Her studies and research have brought her to Paris, France. Buried deep beneath the city is where the stone is said to be stored. With the assistance of a friend named Ben, who also serves as translator of the dead language tied to their quiet, a cameraman (our main vantage point throughout the film), and a small cadre of Parisian guides, they descend into the twisting and ominous catacombs of The City of Light.
“As Above, So Below” is a combination of terrifying elements. Claustrophobia, centuries old traps, allusions to Satan and hell, and confronting one’s deepest regrets swirl together in a feature that is as disturbing as intended. By placing the story in an already terrifying and elaborate maze of Paris catacombs and tombs exists as a character all its own. Despite acting as a pseudo-found footage film, the focus remains on the characters and increasing tension they find themselves in. Due to the twists and small spaces, the camera manages to remain unilateral, leaving the potential for off-screen scares keeping audiences on edge.
It’s a scary concept, especially as more imagery and events appear satanic or demonic in nature. Though the film will end up getting easily forgotten, it is definitely one that will shake viewers to the core. With a fast moving script void of an abundance of horror trappings, "As Above, So Below" is a thrill ride worth taking. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Check your local listings for showtimes and theaters (click here)