Lara Croft and the Philosopher’s Stone
[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00LSW70MU][/pullquote] There is an old saying with films that it’s better to start weak and finish strong than start strong and finish weak. John Erick Dowdle, the director of the latest found footage horror As Above, So Below clearly hasn’t been paying attention. After an intriguing and exciting setup with a couple of great one-shot scares, his film drifts lazily into clichÃ© and disappointment.
Scarlet (Perditta Weeks) is an over-qualified, multi-lingual explorer and treasure-hunter. Think Lara Croft and you’re in the right ballpark. Following the suicide of her father she has made it her life’s work to discover the Philosopher’s Stone, something that her father had researched thoroughly. Having established it’s likely location in the catacombs beneath Paris she forms a small team of adventurers including translation expert George (Ben Feldman) and Parisian tunnel expert Papillon (Francois Civil) to go and investigate. After deciding to head down a tunnel that none of the normal catacomb-dwellers will go down, weird things start to happen.
From the opening scenes in Iran up until the team enter the tunnels, As Above, So Below plays out like an old-school pulp adventure story. There are juicy nods to the likes of Indiana Jones and even The Goonies and you can’t help but smile as you watch some stereotypical treasure hunters unite in search of a mythical item. The fact that they mention Nicholas Flamel and include real artifacts only helps to reinforce the excitement.
The acting is pretty good throughout, with Weeks and Civil the standouts, unfortunately as the tension increases the dialogue disintegrates and by the end there’s a series of really clunky, expositional speeches.
In terms of scares the film does have a couple of big jump-scares, although it does fail to maintain any real tension and the scares come out of the blue and in the case of the first one from non-supernatural means. But as a horror it is successful on this score.
Finding something original within the horror genre is a difficult task, although the addition of the framing of cinema verite (or Found Footage as it’s more commonly known) has lead to some interesting ideas. Apollo 13 wasn’t a great film, but had a killer idea, whereas The Bay did a great job of presenting its high concept idea with some genuine scares.
Director John Erick Dowdle brings a really fun idea to bear in As Above, So Below and the first act is a real joy, it’s just such a shame that it falls apart as the clichÃ©d moments overwhelm the narrative. They’re clearly aiming for this to become a long-running franchise, which in this case isn’t a bad idea because you do want to see more of the treasure hunters. Perhaps next time they should ditch the horror elements and play it as a straight-up adventure. That would be an original idea.