Going into a film with no foreknowledge beyond the fact that it’s from the producers of Turbo Kid, one might be forgiven for not expecting anything too serious-minded. However, this film is an altogether different breed of Canadian sci-fi horror. Written and directed by Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard, Radius is a compelling and inventive movie which makes the most of a low budget by presenting us with science fiction based not around spectacle, but ideas. Hand in hand with this, it’s often a satisfyingly taut, suspenseful affair, thanks largely to the effective lead performances of Diego Klattenhoff and Charlotte Sullivan. And, just to make things tricky for anyone writing a review, it’s a film whose enjoyment largely hinges on going in without spoilers and letting things unfurl naturally.
So, just how much should I reveal plot-wise…? I can tell you that, after an atmospheric opening shot of storm clouds bursting with lightning, we meet Klattenhoff, lying by the side of a stark country road in what would appear to be the wake of a car crash. He’s hurt, he’s bleeding, and he doesn’t remember his own name, although the ID in his pocket tells him it’s Liam. Staggering up and attempting to get help, his disorientation soon turns to outright despair, as all around him people, and animals, are dropping dead on the spot. Local news warns of some sort of as-yet unidentified pandemic in the region, but Liam soon comes to the alarming realisation that it’s something else entirely, and that he is somehow indirectly responsible for it all. But just when things don’t seem like they can get any weirder, Liam is tracked down by a woman (Sullivan) who tells him she was also in the crash – and she too has completely lost her memory. The question is, how did these two know each other before – and, rather more importantly, how are they tied in to the bizarre phenomena going on around them?
Others have already described Radius as having something of a Twilight Zone/Outer Limits vibe about it, and this is a very apt description. The central conceit, of which I’m loathe to reveal anything more, is gradually brought to light in a very effective manner, really building intrigue, and it’s all the more impressive considering that, at least for much of the opening scenes when Liam is on his own, it’s conveyed largely without dialogue. When Sullivan’s character – ultimately dubbed ‘Jane,’ as in Jane Doe – arrives on the scene, it may initially seem like this undermines matters (not unlike when all those other survivors show up in I Am Legend/The Omega Man). However, this soon proves to make the whole set-up even more intriguing. We’ve all seen plenty of amnesia movies which pair up a man and a woman, and more often than not the woman is there purely to help the guy out, Bourne Identity-style; but in Radius, we have the added curiosity of two amnesiac leads, who quickly grow to urgently need one another – despite the fact that neither one of them has the faintest idea what their relationship was beforehand.
As a pretty small scale indie production which is based primarily around character-based drama, Radius lives and dies on the strength of its cast – and, happily, they made some fine choices there. I wasn’t immediately familiar with either Diego Klattenhoff or Charlotte Sullivan (although since looking them up on IMDb, I see that Klattenhoff briefly appeared as Charlie Hunnam’s brother in Pacific Rim; others may also know him from TV’s Homeland), but they’re both very fine actors who really sell the scenario, and keep things human and relatable, even when – as inevitably occurs in genre fare – things veer towards the melodramatic. Twist follows twist as the final act draws in, but we’re not in Shyamalan territory here; each new revelation only serves to increase the drama, as opposed to rendering it all redundant.
Writer-director duo Labrèche and Léonard haven’t done a great deal to date (this is the first I’ve seen from either of them), but Radius makes clear that they’re a strong team capable of producing very creative work. I certainly hope we see more from them, and their lead actors, in the future.
Radius has been screening in cinemas across Canada in the past two months, and will be released to VOD and iTunes on 13th March. Learn more and get updates at the official Facebook page.