M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Four of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2013 and going through September 30, 2014. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2013 and September 30, 2014 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on August 29, 2014. Available on digital download, On Demand, and DVD/Blu-ray!
AS ABOVE SO BELOW (2014)
Directed by John Erick Dowdle
Written by John Erick Dowdle & Drew Dowdle
Starring Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, Cosme Castro, Hamid Djavadan, Roger Van Hool, Samuel Aouizerate, Olivia Csiky Trnka, Hellyette Bess
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At this point in horror history, the found footage film has become pretty mundane. It takes a special kind of found footage film to make it to theaters and an even rarer film to be qualified as good. AS ABOVE SO BELOW is one of those found footage films, mainly due to a unique threat, a terrifying locale, and some decent acting and directing.
Scarlet (Perdita Weeks) is a researcher who is more Indiana Jones than Professor Plumb. Though she is young, she is extremely smart, acknowledged as one of the best in her field of archaeology, and willing to put herself into dire situations for the sake of uncovering age old mysteries and relics. Scarlet travels to Paris to uncover her latest mystery which leads her to the catacombs below the city. With her, she drags a fellow researcher with claustrophobia named George (Ben Feldman), her cameraman Benji (Edwin Hodge), and a trio of French urban spelunkers. Uncovering a new unexplored cave system within the catacombs, the adventurers throw caution to the wind and dive into what seems to be an actual portal to hell. Once inside, the cavers desperately attempt to rewalk their path in order to find their way out of this maze haunted by ghosts, demons, and other evil entities.
The reason the filmmakers are in the cave and their own personal demons are solidly developed in AS ABOVE SO BELOW, but that’s all tertiary to the central importance of an amazing setting for a horror film—any horror film, not just a found footage film. The catacombs are terrifying and the film does a great job of talking up how dangerous it is. Once entered, the catacombs become the ideal place for some scares and thrills and that’s exactly what is delivered. The fact that filmmakers John Eric Dowdle and Drew Dowdle are able to make each twist and turn in this journey iconic and memorable is no easy feat, but they do it. This is highlighted as the cavers try to retrace their steps and find their way back through the horrors they experienced in the first half in order to get out. It’s this straight line of a plot and the memorable scenery that stands out as the best elements of this film. It’s a very simple but effective way of storytelling and adds to the tension because the adventurers have experienced all of the horrific sights and sounds before and now are going back up the path they came from to experience even more horrifying events.
But let’s face it, the bulk of the scares in AS ABOVE SO BELOW are jump scares of people and things appearing out of the darkness and spurting towards the camera. But it is the effectiveness of the setting and the setup of these scares that worked on me every time like clockwork. I have found myself very susceptible to found footage films because I can tune out everything around me and focus so hard on a film that it’s almost like I’m in there with it. The use of found footage in this film feels authentic (aside from the fact that the cameras edit back and forth to one another). There’s no additional music added, but there is music that occurs within the scene which makes things all the more creepy. And for the most part, this feels like something untouched by outside producers, adding to the immersion. This is a round about way of me saying the scares in this film nearly had me changing drawers by the end.
AS ABOVE SO BELOW breaks form also by having a semi-uplifting ending. Usually the camera is dropped or the last person is killed and that’s that. This film does it differently and I appreciate this deviation from the norm. We get to know these characters. We hear their secrets, their fears, and their inner desires along the way. This is character you don’t often find in horror films of this type and another reason this is one of the better ones.
While the format is nothing new and could be categorized as BLAIR WITCH in a cave, AS ABOVE SO BELOW ticks all of the boxes of not only being a good and authentic looking found footage film, but also elevates itself above and beyond the much aligned subgenre to be a fantastic horror film period. I can’t say it is the best, but it is one of the films which deftly uses tried and true conventions of the subgenre and succeeds in bringing thrills at a rapid pace to characters we care about.
THE 2013-2014 COUNTDOWN!
#17 – AS ABOVE SO BELOW
#18 – WILLOW CREEK
#19 – MACABRE
#20 – GRAND PIANO
#21 – RIGOR MORTIS
#22 – ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE
#23 – THE MACHINE
#24 – DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN
#25 – THE SACRAMENT
#26 – THE SEASONING HOUSE
#27 – THANATOMORPHOSE
#28 – DEVOURED
#29 – CONTRACTED
#30 – DISCOPATH
#31 – SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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