The Dowdle Brothers (John Erick & Drew) are back with yet another decently spooky horror film, As Above, So Below. This time, the horror duo have outdone themselves, crafting an atmospheric and dense horror show that minimizes its found-footage shaky cam, while maximizing on its creepy premise and effective, yet somewhat disappointing climax. As Above, So Below is that R-rated horror film that horror fans have been craving and patiently waiting for all summer, if not all year and it absolutely delivers where it counts. It’s not perfect and definitely has a few bumps and rough spots, but it’s mostly an enjoyable ride of scares and excitement.
A group of explorers venture deep into the catacombs of Paris, in hopes of finding the Philosopher’s Stone; an ancient artifact said to have mystical powers that tie in with Heaven and Hell. A young researcher hoping to continue her late father’s work, somehow manages to recruit a few locals and friends to join her on this shady adventure into the unknown.
The deeper the team goes, the more things start to turn themselves upside down, as the team questions if what they are seeing is simply the result of claustrophobia and lack of oxygen feeding on their own personal fears and nightmares or the actual finding of the gates of Hell.
Still, they continue their journey, in hopes of finding treasures and spoils beyond their imagination at any cost.
Director John Erick Dowdle and brother/writer Drew Dowdle have returned to the horror genre with an R-rated treat that most horror fans are going to enjoy and eat up without hesitation. As Above, So Below is that creepy, atmospheric and dense horror film that relies not just on gore and jump scares, but also its environment and story. The film deals heavily with Hell, crossing into a somewhat spooky territory that has the main characters running around trying to figure out what they’ve exactly gotten themselves into and once they find out, things get real hairy.
The Dowdles have crafted the summer’s only good horror movie and perhaps the best mainstream horror film of the year, if we’re speaking about theatrical releases in America. The genre has mostly relied on found footage possession/ghost films, which makes As Above, So Below an interesting and different take on demons, Hell and the twisted and tormented usual that has plagued the genre as of late. This one relies mostly on a scary atmosphere, with sound and lightning playing just as an important role as visuals.
The film also moves slower than most, revealing the film’s plot in a more settled way, which only helps the scares hit stronger and stick around for longer. Seriously, it’s so refreshing being able to actually learn about the characters and relate to them before watching them get thrown into the shitstorm and killed off one-by-one.
Make no mistake, this is still a horror film, which means it plays very closely to the genre book, but there’s still enough creativity to spark interest and keep it going for its entire running time.
Also, the ending is definitely different than what most will be expecting. It’s a tricky one too, because on one hand it comes across as slightly disappointing and tame, while on the other hand it can be seen as being bold and somewhat different than the norm. I respect it and understand why they went with it, but the darker side of my wishes it would have ended on a slightly grimmer note. Still, it makes for an interesting third act that’s only real problem is that it happens way too fast when compared to the rest of the film’s slow build up.
That’s what makes As Above, So Below so much better and different than normal genre affairs. It spends a lot of time on establishing the characters and leaning into the scares, instead of downright pouring them out onto the screen. It comes loaded with your usual jump scares, but it also features lots of frightening and haunting imagery, which is mainly there for effect and not so much a particular scare or moment.
As Above, So Below is the horror movie of the summer, reminding us that R-rated scares still exist and can be delivered with skill and efficiency if in the hands of the right directing/writing team. I’m glad to see John Erick Dowdle and his brother Drew Dowdle get some mainstream screen-time to show off their scares yet again, because the two are one of the last remaining pairs of mainstream horror directors that we’ve got on American soil and they deserve the budgets and screen counts.
The film isn’t perfect, nor is a genre-defying, but it’s still an exciting treat for horror fans that have been craving something bloody, scary and fun and it delivers on all of those accounts. Go in with low expectations and emerge with a grim smile across your face.
As Above, So Below – 7.5/10