Right from this opening the problems already begin to pile up. First of all the protagonist who, in order for these movies to work, you need to sympathize with is an obnoxious person who takes needless risks and makes decisions that defies all logic. Most found footage and horror movies in general (at least the successful ones) will build up the tension and action slowly. Things usually seem normal and calm in the beginning the characters are established giving the viewer a chance to identify with them. As Above, So Below says "The hell with that" and immediately ramps up the action.
The movie continues with an interview of Scarlett done by our next character Benji. Benji is meant to be the level headed one that most viewers are supposed to relate to overall but it's hard to care about him when one of the questions he asks Scarlett is "Some people say your dad was insane because he killed himself, was he?" Which is pretty much par for the course for this movie that doesn't so much inundate the viewer with background information as smash the viewer repeatedly in the face with it. During the interview it's established that Scarlett is a symbologist and amateur archeologist who's father was searching for the philosopher's stone before he committed suicide. She is continuing his work and actually looking for the philosopher's stone for real.
Again the reliability of the characters and the suspension of disbelief are wiped away. Either Scarlett is extremely rich (which would beg the question why wasn't she better prepared) or she's getting funding from a university for her wild goose chase for the philosopher's stone. The former is the more plausible of the two considering the latter would have been laughed out of any university with the money to actually back her. It just adds to a growing list of issues and leap of faiths and the movie has only been going for about twenty minutes at this point.
We're next whisked away to the next protagonist introduction where we find our now duo breaking into an old church in France to find George, a supposed old friend, working on a broken bell tower. George miraculously is able to fix the bell that hasn't rung in 800 years in only a short period of time. Out of all the characters George is probably the most likeable. He's more practical and generally level headed, it's just ruined by the fact that he's some sort of Robin Hood that breaks into places but fixes things that supposedly no one could fix for centuries.
The movie then finds our now trio in a museum after hours removing items from their place and pouring chemicals on ancient stone tablets to reveal secret messages in old languages that just so happen to translate into perfectly rhyming poems in English. Right here is the point where you realize you are not watching a horror movie but a new National Treasure movie. I half expected the next batch of characters we run into to be Nick Cage and friends. Instead we get again rushed off to a mysterious club to find a guide for the Paris Catacombs but not before seeing a spooky pale girl who basically has nothing to do with the plot at all and just comes off as ridiculous and not foreboding as the movie intends.
Inside the club the trio meet up with Papillon the edgy bad boy guide who knows the Paris Catacombs. The next day they all meet up with Papillon's crew and start their journey. George keeps insisting that he's not going and doesn't take a headlamp/camera or any supplies. Papillon leads them to an abandoned train tunnel with a hole in the wall that leads into the restricted area of the catacombs. They all start to go in with George insisting he's staying behind. All of a sudden a lone super cop comes out of nowhere and tackles on the Papillon's crew forcing them all to go into the hole and thus the catacombs, including George.
They continue on deeper into the catacombs which for being so restricted and close off have a surprising amount of graffiti (including Papillon's tag which he so eagerly points out) and even a creepy cult of pale people dressed in white around a fire just chanting and being generally creepy. Don't worry though because they have nothing to do with the plot and don't show up again. Don't even try to think about how it was so difficult for our protagonists to get this far and they seem to just be fine, it's not important.
Our team come to a crossroads of sorts where they have the option of crawling through a bone filled cavern or going through a small door to a dark tunnel. Papillon warns them that the door is evil and his friend went down but never came back. They choose the bone tunnel. While crawling on their bellies the creepy choir cult chant get louder as if they're following the team and Benji gets stuck and starts panicking. Of course nothing comes of this. They make it to the other side and find a piano just there which George talks about having as a kid before his brother died and they only knew one song and couldn't finish because a key was broken and when he plays this one the key is also broken. Spooky scary stuff.
Things just get out of hand as they keep pushing deeper and deeper into the caves. All the tropes are there, they encounter that evil door again and this time have to go through, they seemingly go in circles and don't know where they are, and exposition galore revealing tragic backstories. They even run into the friend that went down the tunnel and never came back. This is also where any chance this movie had with building actual tension and preying upon fears is wiped out completely. The movie essentially turns into an action movie with a "friendship is magic" message, or should I say ACTUAL MAGIC.
The team finds a room filled with gold treasure and the actual Philosopher's stone which Scarlett so happily removes. When one of the crew gets injured she uses shavings from the stone to heal them. Yeah, there's literal magic in this movie but it gets better. At one point Scarlett realizes that the stone is working to bring someone back to life so she turns into a super hero, punches a stone demon in the face, runs at super sonic speed, climbs up a very long well figures out how to get the philosopher's stone to work. turns out the magic was in her all along so she runs back somehow makes blood demons that are in the water just go away, climbs back down, punches another demon in the face and brings someone back to life.
Despite all this I was hoping the ending for the movie would turns things around. Despite all the "The magic was in you all along" garbage I hoped that the ending would at least end on down note. My prediction was that they would keep going and basically reach hell and realize they were trapped. The movie ends with them finding a manhole cover which they push (not pull up cause they're upside down) out and reveal the streets of Paris. Even then I still held out hope that maybe there would be a shot of their dead friends or something to reveal they didn't actually escape, but nope, that's the end. They come out of the Catacombs and everything is just fine.
As Above, So Below has almost nothing going for it. The movie has never heard of the words suspense nor tension. It's constantly berates the viewer with needless backstory and exposition to make you feel for the characters and also to set up some of the things that happen. The characters themselves are all horrible people who have no regard for each other, culture, ancient ruins, and lack any sort of logic and common sense. Not even a quarter of the way through I was rooting for the catacombs to kill the characters and even then I wasn't entirely satisfied. There's so many moments in this movie that sort of just happen and are never talked about again and never allowed to linger on the viewers minds. Found Footage movies hinge on whether or not the audience buys that it's real. This movie doesn't ask you to suspend belief, it asks you to impale it and blow it up. There's moments where you witness hallucinations but in camera.
As Above, So Below manages to somehow encompass the worst aspects of found footage movies and add it's own problems. The characters are unlikable and unrelateable, the premise is absurd on it's face, it goes from horror to action schlock but never enters the so bad it's good territory. It goes so over the top that instead of being able to accept it as campy and charming it ends up being obnoxious and hard to watch. There's bad horror movies, there's bad found footage movies, and then there's As Above, So Below, this movie should be sent back to hell where it belongs.