Combustible Celluloid
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With: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, Cosme Castro, Hamid Djavadan
Written by: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Directed by: John Erick Dowdle
MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence/terror, and language throughout
Running Time: 93
Date: 08/29/2014

As Above/So Below (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Catacomb Tales

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filmmaker John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, Devil) and his co-writer brother Drew Dowdle have assembled a collection of terrific ideas for As Above/So Below, which begins during a dangerous trip to the middle east.

A young archeologist, Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), discovers the key to translating a clue left by alchemist Nicolas Flamel as to the possible location of the legendary Philosopher's Stone. With the help of her indignant, but loyal friend George (Ben Feldman), who can translate, she discovers that the stone may reside in a secret tunnel in the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris, France. She locates a guide, Papillon (François Civil) and his fearless crew, and armed with her documentary filmmaker, Benji (Edwin Hodge), they descend into the spooky passages. What they find there extends beyond any kind of history or alchemy and comes closer to a personal kind of horror.

Unfortunately the filmmakers have chosen the inexpensive, but extraordinarily tired and played out "found footage" motif, which is useful for all kinds of sudden jump-shocks, but also makes for a shaky, nausea-inducing experience. Other annoying cliches turn up as well, including the fate of an African-American character.

However, the good parts make up for it. The Scarlett character is like the child of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft; she's smart, brave, and adventurous, and would be a great subject for sequels. What's more, her brains come in handy during tense moments, which is rare for horror films. The hunt to solve the puzzle and find the stone is mixed with some effective, but often lazy attempts at old-fashioned scares, but ultimately the good ideas tend to outweigh the bad ones, and As Above/So Below rises up as a decent effort.

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