Saturday, August 30, 2014

As Above, So Below

Chosen last night so that I'd have something to watch before The 'Burbs and because EFC doesn't have a review, this one turned out surprisingly well. It is always an enjoyable surprise when a cast of mostly unknowns actually includes someone you actually know and like, in this case Perdita Weeks, younger sister of Foyle's War's Honeysuckle Weeks and with the same sort of charm. Didn't recognize Fran├žois Civil from Frank until after I saw his name in the credits, but I liked him as well.

Anyway, I liked this one a lot more than I thought I would for a time-killer and place-filler. I do kind of wish, if it was going to use one contemporary horror gimmick, it would have been 3D rather than found-footage, as that works really well with these sorts of confined spaces. But, found-footage seems to be the Dowdle brothers' thing, so they went with what they know.

As Above, So Below

* * * (out of four)
Seen 29 August 2014 in Somerville Theatre #4 (first-run, DCP)

A few minutes into As Above, So Below, I was snickering a bit as the heroine smashed an unspeakably old wall because she thought there might be something behind it, because that is some ridiculous Indiana Jones-style archaeology. This is immediately followed by the thought that mocking a movie for calling to mind some of one's favorites is pretty silly. This movie is kind of silly, too, but with a more enjoyably pulpy sensibility than the typical found-footage movie.

The archaeologist in question is Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), young but accomplished, and following in the footsteps of her father in the study of alchemists and the Philosopher's Stone. What she found in Iran could serve as a key to help her find it within Paris, although she needs the help of ex-boyfriend George (Ben Feldman) to translate. Once they have a location, they recruit a trio of urban explorers - Papillon (Fran├žois Civil), Souxie (Marion Lambert), and Zed (Ali Marhyar) - to take them to where a hidden passage can be found. Tagging along is Benji (Edwin Hodge), who is shooting a documentary on Scarlett.

It can be taken as a given that this crew's going to get lost, and the filmmakers probably actually do the thing where folks think they're walking in a straight line but wind up back where they started a bit earlier than the audience might expect. In a lot of ways, the presentation is kind of standard; this is at least the third first-person horror film that director John Erick Dowdle and co-writer/producer/brother Drew Dowdle have made, and it may not be the best choice for this material; the fact that everything is caught on video means that there's no wiggle room between "manifestations" and "hallucinations", and there is little excitement in feeling an audience staring at a dark screen (when the lighting is not unrealistically good) or watching everything shake as people run. The one bit of style that seems a little off the first-person standard - something akin to a videogame speedrun - seems a bit jammed in.

Full review at EFC

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