Students of history and aficionados of the macabre likely know about the Catacombs of Paris, a network of ossuaries nestled beneath the city’s cobblestone streets; they span for roughly two hundred miles, and house six million skeletal remains. Those little nuggets of info are ghastly enough on their own merits, but for extra creep factor, consider that the Catacombs are also a couple hundred years old, and this mass grave immediately becomes the last place on Earth you’re likely to want to visit.
Which is why they make for a great setting for a horror movie, at least theoretically. As Above, So Below, the latest film from Quarantine and The Poughkeepsie Tapes helmer John Erick Dowdle, attempts to make good on the Catacombs’ inherently frightening backdrop by filtering a tale of hellfire, damnation, and poorly thought out life decisions through the lens of the found footage sub-genre.
Mining terror out of a series of claustrophobic tunnels littered with dismantled skeletons as far as the eye can see sounds a lot like shooting fish in a barrel. But at first blush, As Above, So Below feels almost too familiar for comfort; story tropes abound in the teaser, as well as in the synopsis, which sees a handful of intrepid young people embark on a vaguely drawn (and ill-advised) archaeological quest into the Catacombs.
The basic conceit here is that somewhere, hidden in the Catacombs, lies a piece of human history that’s been missing for centuries. What, exactly, that means is left up in the air, but the pull of the treasure is enough that a team of students – including Ben Feldman (Mad Men), Edwin Hodge (The Purge: Anarchy), and Perdita Weeks (The Invisible Woman) – decide to plumb the Catacombs’ depths to retrieve their prize. Which, of course, leads to all literal hell breaking loose.
Something about this wreaks of The Chernobyl Diaries, a movie that also explored real-world haunts through a veil of realism – and to mediocre results. There’s a sense here that the clip is giving away the cow for free – if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve probably seen the movie. Dowdle may have a few tricks up his sleeve to change that perception (The Poughkeepsie Tapes is so prolifically nasty that the film is controversial even today), but this teaser makes As Above, So Below look fairly generic.
The poster, meanwhile, is pretty spectacular, enough to maintain interest in the film even if the teaser is somewhat underwhelming. Check it out below:
We’ll see whether or not As Above, So Below proves to be something special, or if it just ends up being another disposable found footage flick, this summer.
As Above, So Below arrives in theaters August 15th, 2014.