Set in the catacombs that lie below the streets of Paris, As Above, So Below has the distinction of being the first production to get permission to film in the actual catacombs. With access to the areas normally open to the public, and to those that are typically off limits, the film’s writers, brothers John and Drew Dowdle, and their production crew were granted unprecedented assistance from the French government to create the film they had envisioned from the start.
Producer Patrick Aiello says, “We were committed to helping John Erick and Drew make it work and convey the experience of being trapped in the catacombs. Naturally, there are many steps to securing filming in the off-limits sections of this landmark. From necessary tests of structural integrity, water and air quality to a number of safety clearances, the French government worked with us in unprecedented ways.”
All manner of props and supplies had to be hauled into the catacombs, including a functioning piano, and, remarkably, a car. The car was situated six stories below the surface of the earth — and amazingly, the filmmakers were allowed to set it on fire for a pivotal scene.
Drew Dowdle notes, “We drew a lot of imagery from literary references — specifically Dante’s Inferno — that feel like a nightmarish hellscape. Our goal was to build nothing; we wanted to shoot it all in the catacombs … for us, shooting in the real location was important.” John adds, “We were about 3.5 to 4 hours deep and we were seeing skulls and femurs, and we were army-crawling under giant rock formations … it was genuinely scary. That’s exactly how we wanted the movie to feel.”
With no cellphones or electricity available below ground, the cast and crew were forced to rely upon one another for support. And that meant a great deal of navigating the low ceilings that were dug so many centuries ago. John says, “You’d think that you should shine the light on the floor so you wouldn’t trip, but the No. 1 rule was to keep your light on the ceiling so you didn’t hit yourself in the head with those low ceilings.”
As Above, So Below is available starting Dec. 2 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2014 Universal Studios Credit: Legendary Pictures