A detached university student faces the consequences of astral projection when he uses it to reconnect with his dead mother.
Dr. James Lefler (Mark Aiken) approaches his patient Claire (Catherine Steadman) as she sits in the psych ward, staring out a window. They exchange words and the good doctor assures her she is better. We cut to Catherine at home with her young son Alex and her husband Joel (Darwin Shaw). Things seem fine, yet there is a creepy placidity to Claire. We soon find out why as a tragedy closes our pre-title cold open and our movie begins. Astral is a new, cerebral horror pic from Chris and Michael Mul that dives into the dangers of Astral projection and contact with realms beyond our own. It flirts with themes of multi-dimensional exploration as a metaphor for mental illness. A tantalizing idea to be sure, yet Astral doesn’t know how to handle the ingredients in an original way once they are presented, leaving us with an only lightly intriguing supernatural thriller.
“…student faces the consequences of astral projection when he uses it to reconnect with his dead mother.”
After the jarring-in-a-good-way opening, we return to the story years into the future and young Alex (Frank Dillane) is at University now. Shielded from what actually happened to his mother he has no closure on the matter. He and his colleagues sit entranced during a lecture on perception and the world we perceive around us. Could it actually be possible to meditate and travel outside of the body, to project and explore our material world? Despite the warnings from his professor, friends, and flatmates, Alex decides he fancies a trip without his mortal coil and begins attempting Astral projection.
Initially, of course, not much happens. Alex spends a great deal of time trying to convince his friends that it is possible and that he has projected. He also begins chatting, coincidentally, with authority on the matter, a certain Dr. James Lefler. Things begin to get out of hand when shadow people seem to be pursuing not only Alex but his friends as well. Will Alex ever escape the encroaching entities? Will he ever learn of what actually happened to his mother? Will Dr. Lefler finally lose his license for giving shady advice on interdimensional exploration?
“The creep factor is at 11…”
Astral screenwriters Chris Mul, Michael Mul have some provocative notions here. The idea of genetic disposition to mental illness and the desire to know more about ourselves are some meaty material. It’s a bummer to report that with this rich canvas, the proceedings are not only underdeveloped, but they descend into the trite supernatural clichés that we have seen in so many movies before. I will give kudos to the look and feel of the shadow people that pursue both Alex and everyone around him. As if cracking into our dimension, they move in shadowy wisps of darkness that are tremendously effective. The creep factor is at 11 there. Yet, with this lovely ambiguity and mystery, we are left with a rather flat resolution. Oh and you can forget about the other plot set up at the beginning of the film much less the commentary therein.
Astral is a mediocre supernatural thriller at best. We have a script that really needed a few more things wrapped up paired with a thesis that is bluntly dismissed in favor of an easy conclusion.
Astral (2018) Directed by Chris Mul. Written by Chris Mul, Michael Mul. Starring Frank Dillane, Catherine Steadman, Trevor White, Darwin Shaw, Vanessa Grasse.
5 out of 10 stars