Deep in the bowels underneath the city of romance, Paris, lays a cemetery known as The Catacombs. There are many bodies buried there and people have gone down to check things out many times previously. But when a group of overambitious young folks decide they are not only going to explore the underground gravesite but also seek out the reputed hiding place of the Philosopher’s Stone that is when danger grows exponentially.
Sounds like a promising premise for a horror flick, no? Well, I thought so and went to see John Erick Dowdle’s (Quarantine, Devil) latest film with tepid anticipation. Tepid because the horror genre is such a tricky one and those that attempt it are rarely successful. Instead of creating something that is scary they make a cheesy film filled with laughable gore and failed attempts to scare the viewer.
As the young adventurers/treasure hunters begin spelunking and crawling through the claustrophobia inducing tunnels underneath Paris they soon realize that they might not be alone down there. Signal shaky camerawork in an attempt to heighten the scariness of it all, some weird noises, a fast pace at times and shots of the bones of the dead. This is pretty much all that Dowdle has up his sleeve in regards to methods of frightening us. A couple of bullets short, I would say. You might feel nauseous at times but for all the wrong reasons. The camera’s shakiness is the only really queasy inducing thing about the film. It is supposed to be another found footage style film and I have to say that particular cinematic trick is beginning to wear a little thin with me.
When the story moves from Iran, where multi-diploma earning archaeologist Perdita (played by Perdita Weeks) begins her quest for the Philosopher’s Stone, to Paris things that seemed like they might have had potential get bogged down, trapped and hopelessly lost kinda like our treasure hunting friends. Due to poor writing by the director Dowdle and his brother Drew, the story comes to dead ends quite frequently with nowhere left to go other than retreating. This leaves the director to rely almost wholly on the likeability factor of his cast (thankfully for the most part they are likeable) and the building sense of claustrophobia. Still this is not enough to rescue it all from the silliness going on.