As Above, So Below is A Terrifying and Atmospheric Found Footage Masterpiece [The Overlook Motel]

As Above, So Below

Welcome to The Overlook Motel, a place where under-seen and unappreciated films are given their moment in the spotlight. I hope you enjoy your stay here and find the accommodations to be suitable. Now, please take a seat and make yourself comfortable, I have some misbehaving guests to ‘correct’. 

Watch the latest episode:

Archeological horror is a subgenre I hold in high regard. But aside from a few standout efforts, there aren’t many films that fit that bill. The Relic is one such example and I have sung its praises here previously. This week, I am pleased to now be championing another overlooked effort that squarely fits under the heading of archeological horror. I am speaking of the under-seen found footage offering, As Above, So Below. 

The film follows Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), who has made it her life’s mission to find the archeological relic, the philosopher’s stone. Filmmaker Benji (Edwin Hodge) is chronicling her journey for a documentary. Also along for the ride is Scarlett’s scholarly friend George (Ben Feldman) who speaks multiple languages and possesses a vast knowledge of ancient history. The three eventually come to believe that the stone is located within the Paris catacombs. From there, the trio team up with a group of Parisians to uncover the historic relic. But when they reach the mass burial site, Scarlett and company soon come to realize that some things are not meant to be found.  

Also See: Dead of Winter’ is a Chilling Affair [The Overlook Motel]

As Above, So Below does have a fanbase. Hell, it even scored a nationwide theatrical release in 2014. But in spite of that, the flick didn’t perform exceptionally well at the box office, bringing in a meager $21 million domestically. 

I suspect As Above, So below under-performed due to found footage fatigue. By 2014, mainstream moviegoers and even a vocal majority of horror fans seemed to be tired of the POV technique. Accordingly, I think As Above, So Below got lost in the shuffle and didn’t connect with as large an audience as it should have. And that’s a true shame, seeing as this first-person horror effort stands as one of the most frightening and intense films of the past ten years. 

To provide a bit more context for the uninducted, As Above, So Below is a bit like an Indiana Jones film through the lens of The Blair Witch Project. It captures the thrills inherent to an archeological adventure film and combines that with the chills of a claustrophobic, supernatural horror thriller. The end result is nothing short of terrifying. 

Since As Above, So Below (which comes to us from the Dowdle brothers) is presented as footage collected for a documentary about the search for the philosopher’s stone, we get better than average camerawork and that distinction also helps justify the characters continuing to film long after reasonable people would have turned off their cameras and gone home. 

See Also: ‘Everly’ is an Epic Blood-Soaked Thrill Ride [The Overlook Motel]

We also have the important distinction that Scarlett is carrying on her father’s legacy. He, too, searched for the stone and ultimately took his own life before he finished his quest. As such, when Scarlett refuses to abandon her objective, it makes sense. This isn’t just a hobby. This is her familial legacy and her life’s work. 

Scarlett’s tenacity not only provides logical justification as to why the characters continue to film, it also makes her a relatable protagonist. She is dogged and relentless. There’s something rather admirable about a protagonist that won’t let anything or anyone stand in their way. It’s inspirational and gives the viewer all the more reason to invest in that character’s plight. 

The Brothers Dowdle do a phenomenal job of establishing atmosphere and a palpable sense of tension. As Scarlett comes to dead ends and receives ominous warnings, she continues to push forward. As a viewer, it becomes quite obvious she and her crew are about to find out why some things are best left alone.

The filmmakers make the most of the tension created as a result of Scarlett’s dogged determination. When the universe appears to be telling Scarlett and company to stay away and she refuses, that establishes a sense of foreboding. We know things aren’t likely to go well for her. But we also recognize she’s not going to stop until she’s dead or has the stone in hand. And that establishes a baseline of tension that is then augmented by the various forms of supernatural phenomenon she and her team encounter along the way. 

Also See: ‘Found Footage 3D’ Both Honors and Pokes Fun At The Beloved Subgenre [Watch]

Claustrophobic camera angles combined with the eerie backdrop of the largest mass burial site in history make for an intense experience. As matters progress, it starts to feel like the walls are closing in on the characters. The team’s journey would probably be plenty harrowing without the introduction of supernatural elements toward the third act. But that doesn’t deter the Dowdle brothers from ratcheting up the tension to the point of being almost unbearable and really leaning into the horror. 

All in, As Above, So Below is a severely underrated found footage effort that delivers constant thrills and chills right up until the final frame. If you’re down to check it out, you can find the film available for rental from all the major platforms, as well as on physical media. 

That’s all for this installment of The Overlook Motel. If you want to chat more about under-seen and underrated films, feel free to hit me up with your thoughts on Twitter @FunWithHorror



Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter