A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that As Above/So Below is a "found footage" horror movie about archeologists seeking treasure in the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris. There's some brief but strong gore when characters are injured or attacked in the tunnels. Characters die, plenty of blood is shown, and there are some gory injuries (a smashed skull, a gaping neck wound, etc.). There are also some scary moments -- from cave-ins and claustrophobia to ghosts and creepy creatures. Language is fairly strong, including several "f--k"s and quite a few uses of "s--t." There's some brief female toplessness, and two characters have a kind of bickering-flirty relationship. The movie definitely has its spooky moments, and older teen horror fans will no doubt be interested.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
During a dangerous trip to the Middle East, young archeologist Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) discovers the key to translating a clue left by alchemist Nicolas Flamel about the possible location of the legendary Philosopher's Stone. With the help of her indignant but loyal friend George (Ben Feldman), who can translate, Scarlett discovers that the stone may reside in a secret tunnel in the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris. She finds a guide, Papillon (François Civil); along with his fearless crew and documentary filmmaker Benji (Edwin Hodge), Scarlett and George descend into the spooky passages. What they find there extends beyond any kind of history or alchemy and comes closer to a personal kind of horror.
Is it any good?
Filmmaker John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, Devil) and his co-writer, brother Drew Dowdle, have assembled a collection of terrific ideas for AS ABOVE/SO BELOW. But unfortunately they've also chosen the inexpensive but played out "found footage" approach, which is useful for all kinds of sudden jump-shocks but also makes for a shaky, nausea-inducing viewing experience. Other annoying horror movie cliches turn up, too, including the fate of an African-American character.
But the good parts help make up for the weaknesses. Scarlett is like the child of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft; she's smart, brave, and adventurous and would be a great subject for sequels. What's more, her brains come in handy during tense moments, which is rare for horror films. The hunt to solve the puzzle and find the stone is mixed with some effective (if somewhat lazy) attempts at old-fashioned scares; ultimately the good ideas tend to outweigh the bad ones, and AS ABOVE/SO BELOW rises up as a decent effort.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about As Above/So Below's violence and gore. How much is shown, and how quickly? What effect do these scenes have? Are there any other scenes without gore? How effective are they?
Is Scarlett a positive role model? Which of her traits are worth emulating? Which aren't?
What's the appeal of the "found footage" subgenre of horror? How would the movie have been different if it had been filmed more traditionally? How would this technique work on other kinds of movies?
- In theaters: August 29, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: December 2, 2014
- Cast: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge
- Director: John Erick Dowdle
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: bloody violence/terror, and language throughout
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