DECEMBER 7, 2014
If you skipped As Above, So Below this year because you were waiting for The Pyramid to satisfy your urge for a movie about a bunch of explorers getting stuck in a tomb with only their video cameras to protect them, I have some bad news for you: you chose wrong. While no classic, As Above was a hell of a lot better than this silly Syfy level movie, and the constant deja vu did it no favors, since you've seen this done better already; it'd be like if Deep Impact came out AFTER Armageddon. Before I saw it I was confused why Fox was only putting the movie out on 580 screens since it had a couple of names (Alex Aja produced, American Horror Story staple Denis O'Hare stars) that would seemingly make it an easy sell, but by the time I was over I had to wonder why it was going theatrical at all.
At least, theatrical in 2014. If this was 2001, I'd totally get it. The horrible CGI on the movie's creatures would make Mummy Returns fans feel right at home, and they actually play a nu-metal song over the end credits, like just about every movie from Dimension's late 90s/early 00s heyday. If not for the fact that last year's social unrest in Egypt played a (minor) part in the movie's plot, I'd actually entertain the notion that it was something that was shot years ago and was being dumped now to settle a bet or something. I mean, it's not the worst movie I've seen theatrically this year (Jinn, Ganzefeld Haunting, Cabin Fever 3... hell it might not even be bottom 5, which used to mean little but with the baby I only go to the movies like 2 or 3 times a month), but it was just so damn stupid at times, with a shocking lack of any real suspense (and a horrible ending), that even those moments that work don't really help in the long run.
Two of those moments involve out of nowhere deaths, or, to be more accurate, out of nowhere injuries that lead to deaths. In one, a giant piece of rock crushes the leg of one of our heroes (I use the term lightly), which made for the movie's best jump scare. The other could have been a Sam Jackson in Deep Blue Sea level moment, but they chicken out of letting the character die right away - instead he survives a bit longer in order for one of the other characters to film his death (with night vision camera) and provide some more exposition for good measure. In fact, now that I think about it, just about ALL of the movie's six characters (two documentary jerks, three science types, and a soldier) sort of die twice; they suffer what appears to be a mortal injury only to hang on for a bit and die later. One even survives being buried in sand! It happens so often that the film lacks any punch; not only do we eventually realize that the filmmakers (or their producers) don't have the stones to follow through on anything daring, but also means that when someone actually DOES die it's a nothing moment, as we've already expended our sympathy the first time around.
It's funny, one positive thing I noted during the movie, fairly late into it, was that for once the "We're filming everything because we need the camera's light" excuse made sense, as it really WAS pretty dark around them. There's a thing in many horror movies that we just have to accept/figure out for ourselves, which is that the DP is showing us more than the characters can see, making them look a bit ridiculous as they hold their hands out in front of their face and walk slowly around a room/cavern/whatever we can see perfectly well. Here, most of the time it was more or less blackened out... except for when the damn Anubis shows up, looking like a PS1 cut scene in some shots. Suddenly there's an off-screen light source or something, letting us take in every detail of this poorly rendered laughingstock of a villain. If they were smart they would have turned the brightness/contrast DOWN making it darker than it was to begin with, hiding the blemishes of their CGI monster that must have taken anywhere from 4 to 5 minutes to render.
The reliance on bad CGI results in a pretty hilarious continuity error, too - one character is attacked by the mummy cats (yep), who are all CGI and are making CGI wounds all over her. Maybe someone just realized how terrible they all looked, because after the attack is over, the other characters race over as he/she is dying (this is their second death, of course - they were first seemingly killed by falling on some spikes) and all of the wounds/blood are completely gone. It's very rare I notice a continuity error in a movie even if it's the 3rd or 4th time I've watched it, so to see something on my first viewing is pretty telling at how sloppy and uninvolving the film was. It's also rare I feel bad for an actor, but just based on my limited exposure to Denis O'Hare (basically AHS, which I've only liked two seasons of, and a cameo in Town That Dreaded Sundown) I know he deserves better than this.
This review took over a week to write; I saw it on its opening weekend and today (Thursday the 18th) is probably the last time it'll be in a first run theater. If the point of a review is to advise folks whether or not to see it, I've completely botched the job as it's too late to matter. However, since it's basically a Syfy movie it might play better at home, so when it hits VOD and you're in the mood for something that feels a decade older than it is, and it's cheap enough... no, even then you should watch something else. Even if it's free, there are just so many better options, and it's not even bad enough to really sink your teeth into and laugh at. It's just bland and forgettable, which to me is the greatest sin.
What say you?