The Canadian science-fiction/horror film Radius has a basic premise that would have been right at home on either classic television series The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits: a man wakes up from a rural traffic accident to find himself in a state of amnesia, and far worse, that now every living creature within a 50-foot radius of him inexplicably drops dead suddenly. This is merely the starting point, however, for this new feature from the Canadian writer-director team Caroline Lábrèche and Steeve Léonard. The pair has crafted a chilling tale with a screenplay and characters that hold a great deal of emotional power.
Diego Klattenhoff (Pacific Rim; The Blacklist television series) portrays Liam, the aforementioned amnesiac. Frightened of the newfound curse he slowly discovers, he tries to avoid contact with other humans until a persistent woman using the temporary name Jane Doe — played by Charlotte Sullivan (of Chicago Fire and Rookie Blue television fame) — coaxes him into contact. Also suffering from amnesia, she has learned from authorities that she was riding in the car with Liam — and as it turns out, she seems to cancel out his deadly impact when they are in close physical proximity.
With police in pursuit of Liam for being an armed and dangerous terrorist — they haven’t learned the same information about the radius that he has — Liam and Jane search for answers as to why they were together when car accident happened, and why they share this strange new connection. They slowly unpeel layers of their lives until they make a jolting connection.
Lábrèche and Léonard place more importance on the human drama surrounding the two main characters, as well as ones who may hold clues to one or both of their pasts, than they do on thrills and chills, but their pacing works well. Radius certainly has plenty of exciting, suspenseful scenes, but the movie’s strength is the character building in which the filmmakers invest. This approach pays off handsomely when the final reveal is made and the climax plays out, bringing into question such concepts as humanity and redemption.
Klattenhoff and Sullivan make a fine pairing in the lead roles. The initial underplaying of emotions may seem a bit offputting at first, but once viewers realize we are watching two amnesiatic people in walking states of shock who have no current emotional attachments to other humans, the performances take on a realistic gravity. Klattenhoff’s Liam is horrified at bringing death to others, as is Sullivan’s Jane, but she realizes that she somehow holds the key to keeping more deaths at bay. The two actors get the chance to stretch out in the third act, and this is a treat — although an uncomfortable one, story-wise — to watch.
With Radius, Lábrèche and Léonard serve up a genre film that offers intelligent psychological drama and disquieting twists that hold up until the impact of the finale. It’s an intelligent effort that will intrigue, excite, and disturb viewers.
Radius screened at FrightFest, which ran August 24–28 in London, U.K.
Joseph Perry is one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast (whenitwascool.com/up-hill-both-ways-podcast/) and Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast (decadesofhorror.com/category/classicera/). He also writes for the retro pop culture website That’s Not Current (thatsnotcurrent.com), the Gruesome Magazine horror movie website (gruesomemagazine.com), and several other print and online film critique and pop culture magazines.
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