There are multiple entrances to the ancient catacombs beneath Paris. Some are publicly known, others are hidden away and whispered about by those who want to secretly trespass through the miles of limestone and skeletal remains. My entrance into the tunnels was totally unassuming. I was instructed not to take photos of the outside, but I’ll tell you it was at the center of a hospital, which only magnified the eeriness of the visit.
Shock Till You Drop has been called to Paris – where I’m currently stationed this week – for a promotional push both Legendary Pictures and Universal are doing for this month’s horror release As Above, So Below, a film by the Dowdle Brothers (Quarantine, Devil) that uses the Parisian catacombs as a backdrop.
This, of course, isn’t the first time the catacombs – which house the skeletal remains of an estimate 6 million bodies – have been used for a horror film. They were featured in the 2007 Twisted Pictures production Catacombs. I can’t offer much about As Above, So Below just yet due to an embargo, but I think I’m safe to say that the Dowdle Brothers utilized this insanely atmospheric location much better.
A trip into the catacombs came prior to the screen and I did my best to document my journey with a handful of photos which you can find in the gallery below. If you’re not familiar with what they are: The catacombs basically serve as a massive graveyard. Sometime around the 18th and 19th centuries, cemeteries closely located to the living were being cited as the source of disease and infection, so, they relocated the bodies to the limestone quarries beneath Paris. Visitors regularly descend about five to six stories beneath the surface to see this “municipal ossuary.”
The section I paid a visit to with some press colleagues featured a staircase that led to a flooded cavern, markers drawn on the wall that dated back to World War II and mounds of skulls. For some additional visual flourish, a few mannequins dressed like monks lurked in the corners (ah, showmanship). The stretches of tunnel were dimly-lit, damp and cold. It’s also chilling how silent it was down there and although this section of the catacombs all brought you back to one location, I can see how easy it would be for one person to panic if they broke off from the group and were left alone to find their way back.
By the time you read this I will have gone back to the catacombs to conduct interviews with the Dowdles and As Above, So Below‘s cast, so stay tuned for that chat. In the meantime, enjoy the pics…