Following the massive success of Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield (which themselves followed in the footsteps of Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project), the turn of the 2010s decade saw a massive boom of found footage movies.
Horror movies were always done on lower budgets than most other genres, and the amateur-ish look of found footage was not only cheaper, but it sometimes made the horror all the more effective (and sometimes it didn’t).
And like any trend, it was done to death (no pun intended), and a lot of found footage movies weren’t all that good. But sprinkled among the mediocrity were a few hidden gems, and none of them were better than 2014’s As Above, So Below
Using the Real Catacombs
Paris is often seen as the romance capital of world. But among its beautiful and historical architecture and scenery is a massive tomb just beneath the city streets that most people forget about.
As Above, So Below was the first film (other than documentaries) to get permission to actually film down there, and it really shows…literally.
Filming down there added an authenticity that no soundstage could ever replicate. The film may have only had a $5 million budget, and its set looks way more realistic and compelling than most big budget blockbusters.
It gave the filmmakers quite a few challenges, since there was no electricity or cell phone service down in the catacombs, but it was incredibly worth it!
Justifying the Camera
One of the drawbacks to found footage is that the movie always has to justify why a character is randomly carrying a camera around.
Director John Erick Dowdle’s previous films The Poughkeepsie Tapes and Quarantine got around this problem by fusing found footage with documentary style.
And As Above, So Below does something similar. The characters themselves are documenting the catacombs for research purposes.
Because they’re alone and isolated down there, we don’t get the cliché of characters asking, “What’s with the camera?” or police/military personnel ordering the characters to stop recording. It’s just a nice little touch that sets the film apart from others in the subgenre.
Unlike so many other found footage movies, As Above, So Below doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares, where things pop out in front of camera from the side. Instead, it relies on its incredibly creepy atmosphere and setting to elicit fear.
The entire time the characters are underground, there’s an immense feeling of claustrophobia that even the cast and crew felt while filming. Reportedly, actor Ben Weldman actually suffers from claustrophobia, and had to take frequent breaks just to calm down.
For many found footage movies, the style just feels like a gimmick. But As Above, So Below couldn’t really have been shot any other way, given its real life “set”. It works very much to the movie’s advantage, and we the audience are better off for it!
What did you think of As Above, So Below? What’s your favorite found footage film? Let us know in the comments!
You can also check out Halloween Year-Round’s new YouTube channel!