By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Starring Diego Klattenhoff, Charlotte Sullivan and Brett Donahue
Written and directed by Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard
RADIUS (debuting today on VOD; see list of platforms below) has a killer hook, one that could have been the basis of a big loud conspiracy/sci-fi action flick. Instead, writer/directors Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard have teased it out into a mystery/thriller that eschews spectacle in favor of a more quietly dramatic treatment that incorporates some pretty chilling moments.
Diego Klattenhoff stars as a man who wakes up from an auto accident, suffering from amnesia. Unsure of his past, he quickly faces an equally unsettling situation in his present: Everyone he comes across as he wanders through rural Woodmore County is very recently deceased. From news reports he overhears, the authorities believe some sort of virus or bioweapon is responsible, and at first, so does he. Then he surmises the truth: For some inexplicable reason, anyone who comes within 50 feet of him (human, animal or bird) inexplicably drops dead. From this brilliantly simple premise, Labrèche and Léonard elicit a steady hum of tension in the first act, in which the reasons for our protagonist’s predicament are not even the key concern; the more pressing problem is preventing further unintended fatalities.
Before too long, he discovers his name (Liam) and encounters someone who can not only get close to him, but also nullifies his deadly aura for others: A woman who calls herself Jane (as in Doe), as she has also lost her memory. Her arrival gives Liam a sounding board and doubles down on both the mystery (why is she a walking off switch when she’s close to Liam?) and scene-specific suspense (woe to anyone who tries to physically separate them). As the duo attempt to chase down answers to both their pasts in general and their paranormal affliction in particular, Labrèche and Léonard employ judiciously placed flashbacks and stage creatively motivated, well-paced suspense scenes (particularly one in a hospital elevator). They also insert intriguing details, some of which you have to look fast for, like the scrambled type on a missing-persons flyer seen in one flashback.
Beyond the genre trappings, RADIUS is also an effective character piece that’s just as dependent on the quieter moments, first with Liam solo and then between him and Jane, as both cycle through confusion, mistrust and the resolve to figure their way out of their predicament. There are moments when the story seems to be running in place, but never for too long, and the developments that move the story forward are largely logical, even when RADIUS takes a left turn into more horrific territory in the home stretch.
Nurtured by the Frontières market at Montreal’s Fantasia festival (the directing/producing teams behind TURBO KID, another Frontières success, were among the producers of this one), RADIUS turns modest means to its advantage, making strong use of desolate Manitoba, Canada locations (very well-shot by cinematographer Simon Villeneuve). Benoit Charest’s score also contributes to the spare, unsettling mood, which keeps RADIUS unsettling while it also keeps you guessing.
RADIUS is available on the following platforms:
- iNDEMAND (Spectrum, Comcast/Xfinity, Charter, Cox, Brighthouse)
- DISH and Sling TV
- Vubiquity (Verizon Fios, Frontier, Sudden Link, Media Com)
- Amazon Instant
- Google Play