As Above, So Below

The deeper underground our heroes go, the lamer the film gets.

By Max Weiss | August 29, 2014, 12:40 pm


As Above, So Below

The deeper underground our heroes go, the lamer the film gets.

By Max Weiss | August 29, 2014, 12:40 pm


Get Baltimore Daily.

Sign up today and you'll get our latest stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday afternoon.

As Above, So Below has discovered a new ring of hell: Tedium.

The deeper in the bowels of hell our intrepid group of beautiful spelunkers went, the lamer the film got.

At least it started out okay(ish).

Gorgeous and fearless Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) is the world’s youngest archeologist, geologist, linguist, and philologist (and she has a black belt in krav maga, lol). Her father, also an archeologist, died in ignominy while searching for the philosopher’s stone (oh hai, Harry Potter!), which, most of his colleagues don’t believe exists but, by legend, gives eternal life to anyone who possesses it.

To save her father’s good name, she recruits her scholarly ex boyfriend (Mad Men’s Ben Feldman), along with a documentary filmmaker (because what is a horror film anymore without that “found footage” feel?), and a group of Parisian street punks, to help her search the underground catacombs of Paris for the elusive stone.

Generally speaking, I like the kinds of films that combine ancient mumbo jumbo with caving helmets. And for a while, I definitely had fun, especially as the doors to the catacombs kept disappearing and they were all forced to go lower and lower, at one point shimmying on their bellies across a narrow sea of rat-infested bones.

But eventually, it just became one too many clouds of dust and avalanches of rock and swirling cameras and flashes of spectral figures as the gang fell deeper and deeper into the tombs. Films like this, of course, thrive on claustrophobia and darkness. You’re supposed to want the heroes to escape, and maybe you’re supposed to want to escape yourself, but not because you’re getting a little bored.

And then, as is so often the case with horror films, the payoff is unsatisfying. The film’s version of hell is surprisingly self-helpy: Confront your guilt and maybe you have a chance of getting out of hell alive. Conveniently, all of our tomb raiders have some dark secret in their past they are haunted by. This poses the question: Does the film assume that we are all harboring the burden of guilt for someone else’s death? (Incorrect assumption, film!).

As Above/So Below has no internal logic. It makes up the rules as it goes along. As such, as our heroes get more and more lost, it eventually loses us, too.

Meet The Author
Max Weiss is the managing editor of Baltimore and a film and pop culture critic.

You May Also Like

Arts District

The Big Baltimore Playlist: September 2017

The top five local songs you should download right now.


Review: Good Time

In-your-face film is impressive, if exhausting.

Arts & Culture

All The City's a Stage

Baltimore abounds with stage productions to entertain casual theatre-goers and thespians alike.


Review: Victoria & Abdul

True story of the unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria and an Indian clerk is a little too whimsical.

Arts & Culture

Cameo: Bob Benson

We talk to the mirror artist from the American Visionary Art Museum.


Review: It

Nostalgia piece has heart and plenty of chills.

Connect With Us

Most Read

Fall Events Guide
From pumpkin picking to cozy campfires, here are the best ways to celebrate the season.

Meeting of the Minds
Now in its sixth year, Baltimore Innovation Week continues to push the city’s tech scene forward.

Small Print
Local brand Worthy Threads puts the cool back in kids clothing.

Book Reviews: October 2017
The latest from Prince photographer Steve Parke and film critic Ann Hornaday.

Sex and the City
Rec Pier Chop House adds glam factor to Fells Point.