Ever since the conception of Mary Shelley’s timeless classic, Frankenstein, the horror genre has often played with the idea of reversing the roles of monster and human, defining what truly constitutes humanity. Director Asif Akbar (Smoke-Filled Lungs) applies this concept to extraterrestrial life in his recently released sci-fi thriller, Astro.
Astro opens with newspaper clippings paired with a radio broadcast reporting on the Roswell UFO incident of 1947, and the tone is immediately set. The film transitions into a present day televised news report announcing that billionaire Alexander Biggs (Marshal Hilton: Primal Rage) has departed planet Earth. However, questions remain. Known for his research of space exploration in the private sector, speculation is made that Biggs may have made a discovery that prompted his abrupt decision to leave the planet. However, was this to lay claim to a discovery in space or retreat from something here on Earth?
Fading to five days prior to Biggs’ hasty space launch, we are introduced to Jack Adams (Gary Daniels: The Expendables) and his daughter, Laura (Courtney Akbar: Smoke-Filled Lungs), who live a quiet life on their New Mexico ranch. However, when his old friend Biggs offers him a business opportunity, Jack’s life takes an unexpected turn as a world that has remained hidden is revealed.
From advanced technology to ancient aliens to a conspiracy much greater than our tiny existence, the story of Astro holds substance. Taking on a similar angle of The Arrival (1996), this feature is compelling in its own way. Offering up an original tale of what lies beyond the stars, Astro explores the ruthlessness of human greed without regard for a peaceful life.
While intriguing, Astro’s execution is not without its flaws. With multiple scenes serving as openers and others that seem to be more filler than story, some screen time could have been better used. Focus also seems to rapidly shift, interrupting the flow of the plot. Especially due to a small budget, some scenes may have been better left on the cutting room floor while some backstories could have been conveyed differently.
Helping hold the film together are Hilton and Daniels’ performances, along with Louis Mandylor as Viktor Khol and Max Wasa as Vivian. Hilton plays the role of a devious businessman of self-interest to perfection while Daniels is believable as a simple rancher who gets in over his head despite his good intentions. Mandylor and Wasa have a presence about them that is perfect for their perspective roles.
While Astro is far from a perfect feature, it has ambition with a commendable story and some great performances. This feature may not be for everyone, but it is one that can be appreciated by fans of indie film who also love extraterrestrial and cosmic theology.