Film Review: As It Is in Heaven

This assured debut feature quietly ratchets up the tension.

A dark air of foreboding hangs over As It Is in Heaven, about a religious sect torn apart by internal dissension. And why shouldn’t it? After all, the stakes are nothing less than the end of days.

Joshua Overbay’s low-budget debut feature boasts a quietly controlled tension. Set in the backwoods of Kentucky, it concerns a small religious group who’ve dubbed themselves the “chosen people” and who are passionately devoted to their elderly prophet (John Lina) who will lead them into the next world. Unfortunately, the prophet beats them to it when he suddenly takes ill and dies. But before doing so, he chooses a relative newcomer to the group, the recently baptized David (Chris Nelson), as his chosen successor instead of his own son Eamon (Luke Beavers), who had naturally expected to bear the mantle.

David embraces his role and prophesizes about the coming Rapture which will take place in 30 days. But not everyone in the group, most of all Eamon, is prepared to accept this at face value, and tensions mount as their doubts lead to increasing divisions: “He’s not the messiah,” one of them argues. Things come to a dark head when Eamon discovers a dark secret about David’s past.

Director Overbay, working from an effective screenplay by his wife Ginny Lee Overbay, slowly ratchets up the tension in quietly compelling fashion, delineating the story’s chronology via onscreen texts ominously counting down the days until David’s prophecy will supposedly come true.

Greatly adding to the film’s atmosphere is the haunting musical score by Ben Zoeller and Timothy Morton and the superb widescreen lensing by Isaac Pletcher, which employs stark landscapes and forbidding clouds to suitably atmospheric effect.

The Hollywood Reporter

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