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Film / As Above, So Below

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The only way out is down.

As Above, So Below is a 2014 found footage horror film directed by John Erick Dowdle and written by Dowdle and his brother Drew.

The film revolves around Scarlett Marlowe, a professor and historian, and the culmination of her lifelong quest to find the fabled Philosopher's Stone. The sum of her research and explorations leads her to believe that the stone is hidden deep in the catacombs underneath Paris, where six million people have been laid to rest. Accompanied by her lifelong friend, a film director recording her quest, and a trio of locals who can break them into the catacombs, Scarlett descends beneath the city. But once inside, the group becomes the target of a supernatural force, using the errors of their pasts to haunt them.


This film contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Scarlett gets a rampage sequence towards the end of the film, much of it done through First-Person Perspective, as per her head-mounted camera.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Scarlett is more than a little reckless and impatient in her passion, pulling off stunts like illegally entering Iranian ruins to find an alchemical decryption key before the site is demolished, chiselling through an engraved stone door because "they're going to blow it up anyway", and setting fire to Nicholas Flamel's tombstone.
    • George breaks into an old church tower to repair the clock, allowing the bells to ring again for the first time in over two hundred years. He's also accompanied Scarlett on some of her prior exploits, and is initially resistant to helping her again because last time he ended up spending a week in a Turkish prison.
  • Alien Geometries: Scarlett and company do nothing but descend deeper into the catacombs, eventually emerging through a manhole in the Paris streets which is in the ground on both sides.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Everywhere, given that the film is set in Paris.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While half of the team is killed, the other half manages to survive and get away from the catacombs.
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  • Black Cloak: Satan appears in one of these.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted. The black character, Benji, is in fact killed off second.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Basically, that's how the remaining characters get out of the catacombs and back to Paris despite going down the whole time.
  • Daylight Horror: Somewhat. The setting of dark catacombs and head-mounted flashlights makes it impossible for anything to happen in full illumination, but one of the most intense scenes involves a massive fire that leaves nothing hidden in darkness.
  • Determinator: Scarlett.
  • Door to Before: After the group crawled through the tunnel lined with human bones (to avoid going through the "evil" tunnel), they inexplicably ended up in front of it again, and the bone-lined tunnel collapsed.
  • Dwindling Party: Doesn't start until after the Philosopher's Stone is found.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Happens on the main character's second trip through the catacombs. The demon jumps at her the first time around and she screams. Second trip she punches the same one like it was a normal human being.
  • Driven to Suicide:Scarlett's father.
  • Ethereal Choir: Delivered by the cultists, with startling effectiveness.
  • Evil Twin: La Taupe, and the cultist woman.
  • Foreshadowing: Early on, we see a group of creepy but likely harmless young cultists singing near the entrance of the catacombs. Benji is greatly disturbed by this, and even freaks out about them while having a panic attack, screaming about wanting them to shut up. In the opposite-realm part of the catacombs, Benji is killed by one of those cultists when it pushes him down a steep drop that he was preparing to rappel down.
    • Benji's having trouble rappelling early in the film also certainly qualifies.
  • First-Person Perspective: Several sequences are done from this, thanks to each character wearing a head-mounted camera and light.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The second time the occult woman shows up, she is holding an infant. Which raises a lot of questions about what exactly it is that Benji thinks he has done.
  • From Bad to Worse: The 'heroes' keep venturing further and further into hell.
  • Healing Factor: Obtained by Scarlett after she learns where the 'true' Philosopher's Stone is.
  • Hell: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here". The characters have to face their own personal demons to escape.
  • Jump Scare: The film relies on them in the second half.
    • The first one might be the most effective: Papillion is flying tackled by a Paris cop who comes out of nowhere.
  • Karmic Death: Likely Papillon, as it's implied that he killed his friend after crashing a car while driving drunk.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Scarlett gets her boots (and socks) pulled off when she's nearly dragged into a corpse-infested pool of blood.
  • Lowered Monster Difficulty: Scarlett's rampage through the catacombs towards the end has her just plain smacking around some malevolent corpses that originally were played up as unstoppable horrors.
    • This was likely achieved with the help of her black belt in krav maga.
    • Seems to be due to her realisation after returning the stone. As she herself states: "As above, so below. As I believe the world to be, so it is".
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Assuming you want to call Papillon a hero, the group could have turned right back with the Philosopher's Stone if Papillon didn't go for the piles of gold and treasure, tripping the trap and causing the cave-in.
  • Not-So-Final Confession: Confessing about the crimes or misdeeds that the catacombs are haunting them with are what allow Scarlett and the remaining crew to escape the catacombs.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The creepy woman in white (first encountered in the night club where they find Papillon) displayed this "skill" several times.
  • Opposite Day: The second half of the catacombs.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Scarlett and the tunnel demolition in Iran.
  • Philosopher's Stone: What Scarlett (and her father) tries to obtain.
  • Point of No Return: Actually happens four times. When the passage of bones caves in, when they first enter the tunnel that 'nobody comes out of', when Papillon causes the cave-in in the treasure room, and the tunnel inscribed with the message above the gates of hell, which closes up behind the group.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: The first La Taupe, and the second. Helpful, and... not. Though it's up in the air if they're different entities or one and the same.
    • The first cultist woman, and the second. Harmless, and not.
    • The first mysterious corpse, and the second. Not decayed, and decayed.
    • The first As Above, So Below painting, and the second. The painting is flipped.
    • The dead bodies/bones decorating the walls of the first half of the catacombs, and the second. Dead and harmless, and alive and malevolent.
  • Police are Useless: The police try to stop Scarlett and Co. from entering the catacombs... but fail to catch even one member of the group. And after Papillon deploys a smoke bomb, the police never try to go after them. Keep in mind, the catacombs aren't just some stupid collection of tunnels. It contains real human remains that should not be disrespected, and it's a major tourist attraction.
    • And that's to say nothing of the dozen cultists that got into the catacombs without hassle, nor the fact that Papillon says that they do so all the time.
  • Police Brutality: Quite literally. The cop who tries to stop them doesn't speak or communicate, not even to shout "stop in the name of the law" or something - he only suddenly tackles one of them and drags him down to the ground without emitting more than grunts.
  • Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: The inscription written (presumably in French) on the back of Nicholas Flamel's tombstone.
  • Riddle for the Ages:Some of the deaths in this movie are heavily implied to be Karmic Deaths but it's left unexplained what the person was actually guilty of.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • Psychological horror with an alchemical motif, with smaller patterns like mundane objects in inexplicable locations and alternate forms of physical locations, gives it a striking resemblance at times to the Silent Hill games.
    • Also bares some similarities to the Uncharted series, with the protagonists exploring ancient tombs in search of a legendary artifact, aided by a helpful notebook of clues, with things ultimately turning supernatural as they get closer to their goal.
  • To Hell and Back: If you want to assume Scarlett and company really did venture through hell, then yes.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The first time Souxie approaches and tries to touch the second La Taupe, he violently attacks her. So, logically, the next thing she tries to do is do it again.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The movie is enjoyable on its own terms, but really understanding it involves knowing more about classical alchemy and magic that is explained in the movie.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Scarlett lampshades her own propensity to do this. For one, after every horror the group encounters, they insist that they keep going.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The film is more or less a found-footage version of The Divine Comedy. It features punishments of an ironic sort, and the only way to escape is to go down.


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