It’s rare that a high-concept thriller not only lives up to the promises of its set-up but full-on thrives on it.
Few films manage to own their selling point as well as Radius, an ice cold mystery thriller that doubles down on the visuals and lets its script do quite literally all of the talking. It’s a film that holds its deepest reveals close to its chest all the way through to the finale too, delivering a total gut-punch of a closing twist that’s virtually impossible to see coming.
Keeping things Canadian, native writer/director duo Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard fling us straight into the great north countryside, playing out a fairly familiar amnesiac drama with a whole bunch of extra steps. Diego Klattenhoff’s Liam wakes up hours after a horrific car crash with absolutely no recollection of who he is or why he’s there. And minutes later things get a whole lot more complicated when he quickly discovers that every living thing that steps near him almost instantly dies, humans included.
To say even so much as a sentence more would be to do Labrèche and Léonard a great disservice, because Radius’s greatest highs very easily come from its carefully-staged reveals: the less you know going in, the better. Looking at where we start and where we end, it’s a film that’s essentially built on constant waves of new information, most of which feel totally game-changing at the time they’re dealt. The way Labrèche and Léonard tease out each and every morsel of the film’s plot is completely inspired; there’s so much thought and craftsmanship that’s gone in to not just the pacing here, but the audience journey too. It’s a film designed to get people talking and guessing; arguably the quietest crowd-pleaser around.
Because Radius really is quiet. While it does deal out hand after hand of appropriately spiky surprises, pretty much everything else about this tiny Canadian thriller is precisely that: tiny (and Canadian). We float between beige roadside diners to even beiger small-town general stores; Klattenhoff and co-lead Charlotte Sullivan are a little too well-mannered for a pair caught in the shit-storm they’re in, and the whole thing just feels so insanely paired back. It’s not a major issue in the long run, (Labrèche and Léonard seem to realise early on where their strengths lie), but an extra spot of personality to the proceedings would’ve certainly sweetened the pot.
As is though, horror hounds, sci-fi fans and even just those chasing a good old-fashioned mystery will find a lot to love in Radius. The TV-movie vibe is a tough one to shake but once you do look past the undercooked visuals there’s a lot of life and genre rocking just below the surface.
Destined to likely be a forgotten background gem, there’s no denying that Radius fully delivers on what is easily one of the most unique core concepts of the year.
Radius was screened as part of HorrorChannel FrightFest 2017.