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As Above, So Below (2014)

'As Above, So Below' consists of a group of characters on the hunt for the ancient ‘Philosopher's Stone', something which according to legend is central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy - symbolizing perfection at its finest, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. This journey takes the central characters through various locations and cities, utilising their archaeological knowledge of various historical artifacts in the pursuit of answers.

Putting the horror element aside (which isn't introduced until we reach the catacombs of Paris) this is a very captivating plot. One that is delivered in such a way that you can't help but feel like you are along for the journey with them. And whilst having a found footage approach, I would consider this more documentary style in its overall presentation. Once the horror aspect of 'As Above, So Below' is introduced, this movie takes on an entirely different type of momentum, one that provides a refreshing new direction for the viewer without feeling disjointed from the overall narrative.

The set location featured here is truly mesmerising. Having never had the opportunity to visit the catacombs of Paris, I was in complete awe of everything featured in backdrop. To then learn that, with the permission of the French authorities, all of this was actually filmed on location, becoming the first feature production to gain access to off limit areas. With the use of very little custom props, the vast majority of the stuff used in this movie is infact real and the cast and crew had to utilise what was found on location.

Once in the catacombs, the ever increasing slow built tension and claustrophobia begins to set in and and doesn't let up all the way to the closing moments. Using creative sound design and clever camera work, director John Erick Dowdle perfectly displays to the audience the fear and anxiety that the characters are enduring as they decent deeper and deeper into the darkness and madness that the catacombs have is store. Using minimal lighting (with the exception of head torches on the cast) provided a very authentic approach to this production, something the director Dowdle was insistent on.

The cast is primarily made up of our three leads, Scarlet played by Peridita Weeks, George played by Ben Feldman and camera man Benji played by Edwin Hodge. We are later introduced to another group of French citizens that guide the group down into the tombs, but I would say they are more or less disposable when it comes to audience investment in the characters. I must say considering the small production budget and how unrecognisable cast is, I found each and everyone of them to give an outstanding performance, each one of them showcasing their incredible range as actors. Peridita Week takes on the final girl focus role and delivers such a captivating performance, something that is pivotal to the movies authenticity.

As previously mentioned, the story itself is extremely compelling and for me is the strongest element of 'As Above, So Below'. I tend to find that any movie that utilises the concept of Hell or other worldy plains always manages to hold my attention. However, I've never witnessed any that execute this idea as well as director John Erick Dowdle and his brother Drew Dowdle who co-wrote the screen play together. Whilst being clear and precise with it's exposition, this still leaves enough room for the audiences own interpretation of the plot, without leaving anything open ended. This as a great accomplishment when it comes to this type of ambiguous screenplay.

'As Above, So Below' is a criminally underrated found footage masterpiece and one that I am embarrassed to have waited so long to have seen. Fantastic performances, awe-inspiring set locations, creative use of direction and camera work - as well as an extremely captivating plot - makes for a highly recommended watch to anyone intrigued by the concept of life after death and the exploration of whether there is something else more to what we think we know and understand. 'As Above, So Below' now resides at the top of my favourite found footage list.



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