The story follows Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks), a young alchemy scholar whose quest to find the philosopher’s stone leads her and a group of friends to the catacombs that lie beneath the streets of Paris.
Scarlett has been after this stone for quite some time in an effort to complete the work of her deceased father. The fabled stone is a legendary alchemical substance that is capable of turning base metals like lead into gold. The stone also holds the power to grant eternal life. Sounds like a whole load of BS to me.
With the aid of her motivated cameraman, Benji (Edwin Hodge), and her friend and translator, George (Ben Feldman), Scarlett sets out to find a hidden passage in the catacombs that she believes will lead them to the stone.
On a guided tour of the catacombs, a young boy suggests she seek the help of Papillon (Francois Civil). And so the trio sets out to find Papillon, who agrees to guide them through the catacombs on the condition that he gets to keep any treasure they find, with the exception of the stone, of course.
Just like Scarlett has her crew, Papillon has his. Joining them on their journey into the catacombs are Souxie (Marion Lambert), the banshee of the group (?), and Zed (Ali Marhyar), the climber. Once they enter, there’s a lot of wandering around. A lot of perusing the catacombs and examining ancient tombstones and remains.
I should mention that this is another entry to the “found footage” subgenre of horror. So it’s all handheld cameras. The lighting is fine, but the camera moves, shakes, zooms in and out, spins around in circles, and towards the end of the film, you want to punch the cameraman in the face (sorry, Benji).
They also have cameras attached to their headlamps because, well, why not? It’s nearly impossible for Benji to film all five of them at once and their surroundings, so might as well slap cameras on everyone else to explain the extra angles and different perspectives.
The setups are lame and predictable. As they’re entering a club in search of Papillon, Benji encounters a strange girl in white (why are these girls always wearing white or black?). And I believe the girl pops up briefly later on when they stumble across a group of female cultists dwelling in the catacombs (at least the eyes made it look like her). And you just know at one point in the film, Scarlett is going to have a run-in with her deceased father, just as a few of the other explorers come across lost family members.
Among the creepy disturbances found in the catacombs are a ringing telephone, a piano that’s familiar to George, and dead bodies that don’t seem to rot. They also find La Taupe (Cosme Castro), a friend of Papillon’s who disappeared in the catacombs two years earlier. Oh, and the ground above rumbles and cracks. Too bad it didn’t collapse halfway through and spare us all from the disappointing ending.
Perdita Weeks as Scarlett kept me watching to the end. In fact, she was about the only thing that kept me watching. I adored her charming accent.
George came off as a wimp for the most part, but a likable wimp (if that makes any sense). Kudos to Ben Feldman for pulling that off. I wonder if there’s any relation to Corey Feldman.
Edwin Hodge was behind the camera most of the time, but he did fine in his role here. I wish I knew a little more about the actor but this was my first time seeing him in anything.
Francois Civil was very likable as Papillon. He was one of the only characters who seemed real to me. Once deep in the catacombs, he had this constant look on his face that said, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” I think that’s how any sane, rational person would’ve reacted after the first bizarre encounter.
Drew Dowdle was the one who came up with the story for The Poughkeepsie Tapes, a film that’s been eluding me for years now. He also helped his brother write the screenplay for Quarantine and this latest endeavor. I know most people didn’t enjoy Quarantine, but I actually did. What can I say, I’m a Jennifer Carpenter fan. And I haven’t seen the Poughkeepsie Tapes as of yet. But I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy this latest effort from the Dowdle Brothers.
I’m afraid I have to give this one the thumbs down. Other folks might enjoy this film. But not me. It’s all about taste. And this film did nothing to satisfy my appetite for a good horror movie.
The movie was filmed in the actual catacombs of France, not on a set. Or so they claim.
The first production ever to be granted permission from the French government to film in the catacombs.
This was not screened in advance for critics (that should tell you something).