[Screen It]


(2014) (Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman) ( R)

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Horror: A young archaeologist leads a team of treasure hunters into the Paris catacombs and they soon find themselves in the presence of true evil.
Scarlett (PERDITA WEEKS) is a young archaeologist who is still reeling from the suicide of her father. Devoted to his memory, she takes it upon herself to complete his long-held quest to find the Philosopher's Stone, a fabled rock that has the power to transform base metals into gold. Her research takes her to the catacombs of Paris -- a 200-mile labyrinth of tunnels beneath the City of Lights where an estimated six million corpses were buried over the centuries.

She puts together a team for this expedition, promising them each untold treasures. There is George (BEN FELDMAN), a translator of ancient languages and her former flame; Benji (EDWIN HODGE), a documentary filmmaker eager to chronicle Scarlett's quest; Papillon (FRANCOIS CIVIL), a mercenary guide who knows all of the hidden ways to get into the catacombs and as deep as possible; his girlfriend, Souxie (MARION LAMBERT); and expert climber, Zed (ALI MARHYAR).

As they soon discover, though, the deeper they go into the catacombs, the more their lives fall into peril. Dark secrets from each of their pasts start to physically manifest themselves. George, for instance, sees a piano that reminds him of his little brother, who drowned to death years earlier as he rushed to help him. Scarlett is beckoned by a mysterious ringing phone, the same one she didn't answer the night her father tried to call her before hanging himself. They all soon learn that there is no turning back. Their only choice to continue to moving forward and deeper and deeper down.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
For films not screened for the reviewing press or very late the evening of release, we only provide a few paragraphs of critical analysis.

I hate this whole sub-genre of hand-held, shaky-cam, "found footage" mockumentary type movies. They make my eyes hurt. They look like they could be shot by anybody. I just think the trend has played out. Seriously, how many years has it been since "The Blair Witch Project?!" So, it takes a pretty darn good one of these movies for me to recommend it. Fortunately, "As Above, So Below" is one such flick. I was surprised at how unnerving and tense this film was. Was I scared? No. It was better than that. I was creeped out!

The film centers on a young archaeologist named Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) looking to continue her father's work by finding the fabled Philosopher's Stone, which reportedly turns base metals to gold and has the power of healing. No, it's not somewhere in the bowels of Hogwarts. As it turns out, Scarlett's quest takes her to the catacombs underneath Paris -- the 200 miles of underground tunnels where as many as 6 million corpses were buried centuries ago. She enlists the aid of a translator, a documentary filmmaker, a guide, his girlfriend-assistant, and an expert climber to go deeper than anyone has ever gone for the promise of great treasure. What they find down there is the stuff of nightmares.

Directed by John Erick Dowdle, the film is better than ... well ... any film directed by a man named Dowdle has a right to be. For the most part, the shaky cams affixed to the mining lights atop each character's forehead is effective at "putting you there" with the search team. But it's terribly, almost infuriating distorted whenever there is action in the film. I wish Dowdle had found a way to film scenes of running, fleeing, climbing, and other action better. But in other instances, he finds just the right point to fixate on such as a truly frightening scene in which Benji (Edwin Hodge) becomes stuck in a tight crawl space of one tunnel and begins to freak out all the while a sinister cult somewhere else in the catacombs is heard singing some freaky choral chant that seems to be getting closer and closer the more Benji struggles to free himself. Well played! And I give this film a very well-played 6 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed August 28, 2014 / Posted August 29, 2014

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