As Above, So Below: A Claustrophobic Journey

As Above, So Below follows a group of young archaeologists who venture deep into the Parisian catacombs to find a long lost treasure.

The film begins with Scarlett (played by Perdita Weeks) going into the underground tunnels of Iran where she discovers an ancient artefact, which leads the story to Paris.

From the very start, it was clear that this film was to feature people climbing through tiny holes with the risk of collapse.

This immediately built suspense as the characters were more or less trapped underground and ‘the only way out is down’.

The characters aim to find the Philosophers Stone, which caused a snigger or two throughout the cinema due to the Harry Potter franchise.

Adding to this, the infamous alchemist Nicolas Flamel was also a vital part of the storyline.

Due to the internationally known franchise of Harry Potter, it was difficult to watch this film without thinking about young Daniel Radcliffe searching for the Philosophers Stone.

Maybe if As Above, So Below was shot before the Harry Potter franchise then it would have had more of an impact.

As Above, So Below uses the hand held camera technique to tell the narrative as the premise of the film was that they were shooting a documentary.

The hand held camera, in many other films, adds the horror element as we (the audience) see what the characters see and hear.

The Satanic diegetic sounds throughout the film really built the tension and fear as there was nothing else but the group of archaeologists underground and made you question ‘who is making those sounds?’

As the film progressed the narrative became increasingly difficult to comprehend and posed questions such as ‘What is going on?’, ‘What is following them?’ and ‘How will they escape?’

As the film is a ‘film within a film’ it was difficult to see what was happening at certain scenes but this did add more suspense as the audience could still hear the breathing, screaming and panicking voices of the characters.

Despite adding suspension, the hand held camera didn’t really work. Like all films that use the hand held camera technique, they add a certain motion sickness to it.

With regards to characters, it was clear that each of the six protagonists were being tormented by some sort of demonic creatures and as they made their way further down towards the gates of Hell, the characters were getting dropped off one by one.

However, there was no character development and there was no attachment to any as we did not get to know any of them, not even the main character Scarlett.

The ending of the film revealed that the characters had to admit and repent their biggest sin but we were not given any in depth into why they were being tormented by certain demonic creatures and why some died the way they did.

Advisory note for anyone suffering from claustrophobia, this is probably not the film for you. It made those without the fear of small places panic as the characters crawled through insanely small, tight holes.

Nonetheless, the film was brilliantly terrifying throughout as there was no knowing where the film was going and that added suspense.

However as most horror films, the ending was poor and left the entire cinema asking ‘what the hell?’ (No pun intended).

It was a 93 minute journey through easily collapsible holes, unexplained deaths and being stalked by demons.

Check out the trailer here:

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