The found-footage sub-genre has really come of age, and the Dowdle Brothers (“Quarantine”) give it their own supernatural spin with “As Above, So Below” (Aug. 29). But although they were playing with an Indiana Jones-like archaeological bit of horror, John Erick and Drew told me after the Legendary panel in Hall H that the project didn’t coalesce until Legendary producer Thomas Tull pitched them the Paris catacombs concept.
“We went off and shot it very quickly in the real thing, exploring these ancient caves with graffiti from the French Revolution and there were Nazi inscriptions — all kinds of crazy stuff down there. I didn’t realize that ‘Phantom of the Opera’ was through the catacombs until researching it.”
They went all-digital with the Red Epic as the main camera and for the head camera used the Panasonic Actioncam. They lit most of the movie with the light on the actors themselves and one light on the camera and really just let the light fall where it may and tried to embrace the accidental nature of some of the shots.
Utilizing such horror touchstones as “The Shining,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist,” “The Omen,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” and, yes, “The Wizard of Oz,” which they found terrifying as youngsters, the Dowdles relied on dislocation instead of gore to frighten viewers. And despite the claustrophobic nature of being trapped underground, as the characters go deeper into the catacombs, the environment expands.
But it’s truly supernatural: As characters go deeper, they come face to face with their own personal demons. And a still image of something that doesn’t belong there is still more terrifying in the long run than torture porn.