As Above/So Below (R)

7 Stars

Horror movies are rarely called ‘great.’

When was the last critically acclaimed horror movie released? You’d be hard-pressed to find anything since The Ring in 2002.

I haven’t seen The Conjuring, Mama or Oculus but people say they’ve got potential. I thought Drag Me to Hell was pretty good from 2009.

But the last great one I caught in theaters was Devil from 2010.

Which is also directed by John Dowdle. He wrote Quarantine (2008), as well – another solid semi-recent horror.

As Above/So Below is the best horror movie I’ve seen in a long time.

First of all, it’s shot on-location in Paris, which is a delight for any fan of that city. Favorite sights like Notre Dame and Sacre-Coeur are featured throughout.

The filmmakers use almost every shooting style. AA/SB is a mockumentary about Scarlett (played by Perdita Weeks) a young archaeologist searching for the philosopher’s stone. Therefore much of the footage is shot in first-person via headlamp GoPro cams.

Although I’m sick of ‘found footage’ it works better here. For obvious reasons, the budget can’t be massive, so this filmmaking style is particularly suited to horror.

The story is also good, co-written by the director and his brother, Drew.

There’s more nuance than usual. The main characters use deductive reasoning and historical analysis in order to solve riddles and navigate the labyrinthine catacombs.

There’s a lot of rebirth imagery, but I wonder just how far the metaphor goes. Are the ribbed tunnels supposed to be reminiscent of a vaginal lining?

Dichotomies drawn between light and dark, and up and down, are intriguing and thought provoking.

The cast of unknowns delivers strong performances. It’s tough to get through a whole scary movie without poor acting or cheesy moments.

Apparently I’m in the minority because AA/SB is getting 13% amongst top critics and 57% amongst the users on Rotten Tomatoes.

But I would encourage an open mind, because it’s a cut above the rest.

If you’re looking for a decent flick this weekend, especially if you dig horror, you can do a lot worse than As Above/So Below.

Thoughts, perchance?

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