Cinematic Releases: Astral (2018) - Reviewed

If you had a real chance to reconnect with a lost loved one, would you?  

Astral, starring Frank Dillane shows the consequences of such attempts.  Dillane, perhaps most familiarly known as Nick on Fear The Walking Dead, stars as Alex, a university student who lost his mother as a young boy, and attempts to communicate with her after learning about astral projection in one of his college classes.  For those either unfamiliar, astral projection is the theory that human beings can have an out of body experience that enables them to travel beyond the known physical universe and possibly communicate with the dead.  Of course, this is largely written off by credible scientists, and is more popular among spiritual groups.  

The film, of course, tackles the idea that is a scientific possibility, going so far as to have university professors teaching about it to undergrads.  It's made clear early on that Alex never got over the mysterious, untimely death of his mother; so of course he's immediately drawn to the idea of communicating with her.  What ensues, however, is a mixed bag of results that doesn't quite draw the audience like it does Alex. 

On a technical level, Astral hits all the solid marks.  The film is well shot, showcasing depth and atmosphere that's both pleasing to the eye as well as proving a sense of eerie dread as the film progresses.  The performances given by Frank Dillane, along with the rest of the cast are surprisingly believable and nuanced, considering such an outlandish topic such as astral projection.  These elements actually do provide several moments in the film that are genuinely creepy.  However, that's the extent of the film's merits.  

The foundation of any film is the script, and that unfortunately, is the weakest element of Astral.  The story gives off some interesting ideas; however, they only touch on them without providing any real depth.  The lack of focus kept me from fully engaging with the story or really caring about its characters.  I partially blame this on such a short runtime.  The film clocks in at about 1 hour and 20 minutes, barely giving it a chance to really dive deep into its subject matter.  I found myself bored at various moments throughout the film, despite such a short runtime.  I feel that if it really got a chance to explore more of the ideas presented, as well as providing a little more character development, Astral could have been a much more effective supernatural thriller.  Unfortunately, the end result was a largely forgettable experience that should perhaps be left to only the most hardcore of horror fans.  Of course, for anyone who still insists on seeing it, if you do end up disappointed, at least the short length won't make you feel as bad about wasted time?

-Derek Miranda