As Above, So Below


Perdita Weeks wonders if there isn't an easier way to make it into Hollywood.

Perdita Weeks wonders if there isn’t an easier way to make it into Hollywood.

(2014) Horror (Universal/Legendary) Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, Francois Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, Cosme Castro, Hamid Djavadan, Theo Cholbi, Emy Levy, Roger Van Hool, Olivia Csiky Trnka, Hellyette Bess, Aryan Rahimian, Samuel Aouizerate, Kaya Blocksage. Directed by John Erick Dowdle

Below the streets of Paris there is another city, a city of the dead. The legendary catacombs are where the remains of some say as many as eight million Parisians rest. Bones stacked neatly in ghoulish patterns – this is a real place, an actual tourist attraction in the City of Light. How perfect a setting it would be for a horror movie.

Scarlett (Weeks) is going to oblige us on that score. She believes that the legendary Philosopher’s Stone which European alchemists of the 15th century famously believed could change base metals into gold and allow the possessor to live forever, also rests in a secret chamber off the catacombs. She is a bit nutty on the subject – her dad (Van Hool) searched his entire life for the Stone and was ridiculed by the scientific community for it. His suicide only drove her into further obsession to find the artifact.

After nearly getting buried alive in Iran to photograph an elaborate Rosetta’s stone-like thing that would allow her to translate a map that she believes will lead her to the stone, the determined young scientist – who has several PhDs to her credit despite her youth – heads to Paris to find George (Feldman) who can translate the Aramaic and allow the symbols to be properly read.

George, once abandoned in Turkey by Scarlett so that she could continue her quest, is less than enthusiastic about helping her and her omnipresent cameraman Benji (Hodge) who is documenting the search. However, he agrees to put her in contact with urban spelunkers Papillon (Civil), Souxie (Lambert) and Zed (Marhyar) who agree to lead her to the place on her map even though it appears on no credible maps of the catacombs.

Once they get down there beyond the paths where tourists tread, strange things begin to happen. George, who is forced to join them by circumstances beyond his control, is definitely uneasy and Benji who is a bit claustrophobic is downright ready to turn on his heels and head back to the world above, sense that there is something not quite right and Papillon, who knows the area better than anyone except for La Taupe (Castro), a mole-like spelunker who went down into a forbidden tunnel and never was seen again. Of course, you know which tunnel they’re going to head down into – and where it leads may be the last place anyone rational wants to go.

Right now is a really good time to be a horror film, with an abundance of talented young up-and-coming directors showing immense promise and delivering in some cases some extraordinary horror films. While Dowdle qualifies as the former, his latest effort doesn’t qualify as the latter but don’t be put off – this is a very solid and entertaining horror movie that takes full advantage of its setting.

The cast is largely unknown although Mad Men fans might recognize Feldman but do solid jobs in roles that are fairly rote horror characters. I have to say Marhyar has one of the best “oh, crap!” expressions I’ve seen ever. It does make for occasional comedy relief.

The film is presented in a found footage format, which to my mind was totally unnecessary. We spend large chunks of time wandering down tunnels lit by headlamps and flashlights. Sure, this can be creepy but over the course of an hour and a half it gets old, plus because much of the movie is shot with GoPro devices the image quality is murky in places.

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an off-the-charts creepiness factor going on here and Dowdle knows what he’s doing when it comes to ratcheting up the tension to high levels. While there is a lot here that’s unremarkable, overall this is a much better than average movie when it comes to horror and in a year where the bar has been set fairly high for big studio horror pictures this one comes in right in the middle of the pack.

REASONS TO GO: Genuinely creepy setting. Some terrific scares.
REASONS TO STAY: Found footage is definitely passé and in this case, unnecessary. Could have shaved about ten minutes off.
FAMILY VALUES:  Plenty of terror and violence, some of it bloody. There’s also pretty much non-stop cursing.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The first movie to be released in Legendary’s new deal with Universal after years at Warner Brothers.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/13/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 28% positive reviews. Metacritic: 38/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Intermedio
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT: Mood Indigo

New Releases for the Week of August 29, 2014


As Above, So BelowAS ABOVE SO BELOW

(Universal/Legendary) Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, Francois Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, Cosme Castro, Hamid Djavadan. Directed by John Erick Dowdle

A group of student explorers in the catacombs of Paris are trapped by a rock fall. With no choice but to go further into the labyrinth, they find themselves lost. Soon, inexplicable things begin to happen to them and the group realizes that they have stumbled onto an ancient secret, one which may cost them their lives.

See the trailer, clips, an interview and B-roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Horror

Rating: R (for bloody violence/terror, and language throughout)

50 to 1

(Ten Furlongs) Christian Kane, Skeet Ulrich, William Devane, Madelyn Deutch. A group of New Mexico cowboys who have more heart than brains are stunned when their crooked-footed horse qualifies for the Kentucky Derby. Getting the horse there though is half the battle and once they get there, they’ll only have to face the elite of horse racing in the glare of the biggest spotlight in the sport. If ever there was an impossible dream, this must be it.

See the trailer and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sports Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for some suggestive material and a bar brawl)

The Calling

(Vertical) Susan Sarandon, Topher Grace, Gil Bellows, Donald Sutherland. A small town police detective has never had a whole lot of work thrown her way but a series of murders in the surrounding area puts her face to face with a serial killer who is answering to a higher calling.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: R (for violent content, disturbing images and some language)

Cantinflas

(Pantelion) Oscar Jaenada, Michael Imperioli, Ilse Salas, Barbara Mori. Mexico’s most beloved comedian has a story that is largely unknown outside his native land. From humble beginnings he rose to the bright lights and fame of Hollywood, co-starring in the Michael Todd Oscar-winning epic Around the World in 80 Days. This is his story.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Biography

Rating: PG (for thematic elements, language, smoking and some suggestive material)

Land Ho!

(Sony Classics) Paul Eenhoorn, Earl Lynn Nelson, Karrie Crouse, Elizabeth McKee. Two dear old friends, once married to two sisters, have drifted apart over the years. Now that one is divorced and the other is a widower, they decide (albeit one of them reluctantly) to take a vacation to Iceland where the two may find the adventure still in their hearts even if the bodies aren’t quite what they used to be.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for some language, sexual references and drug use)

November Man

(Relativity) Pierce Brosnan, Luke Bracey, Olga Kurylenko, Eliza Taylor. One of the CIA’s most lethal operatives has been living in relative peace and quiet in Switzerland after retiring. However, he is lured out of the pasture for one final mission, but soon discovers that it is not what it seems to be and that he will be forced to take on his most brilliant protégé in a game that he once knew but whose rules have changed.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opened Wednesday)

Genre: Action

Rating: R (for strong violence including a sexual assault, language, sexuality/nudity and brief drug use)

Raja Natwarlal

(UTV) Emraan Hashmi, Humaima Malik, Kay Kay Menon, Deepak Tijori. After a small time con man is wronged by a big time gangster, the grifter seeks the help of his mentor to get his revenge on the crook.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR