Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our brief breakdown-style reviews of festival films, VR previews, and other special event releases. This review comes from Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.
One of the serious advantages to smaller, indie speculative-fiction movies is that you generally don’t know what you’re getting up front. In today’s anticipation culture, websites often drool over every possible detail and reveal about the bigger nerd-friendly properties. It’s easy to walk into a big movie feeling like you already know all the major beats, because they’ve been discussed to death online already in “Everything we know about this movie” articles, and “Let’s pick apart this trailer frame by frame” videos.
And then along comes something unheralded, under-the-radar, and authentically strange, like the Canadian movie Radius. Suddenly the audience is on a fast-paced trip into the unknown, with no idea where this premise could possibly lead. And Radius, the latest collaboration between married writer-director team Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard, does start with an unbeatable premise that feels like a solid Stephen King horror story. A man wakes up in a wrecked truck and goes looking for help. His memory is completely gone. He can’t even remember his name. And slowly, he starts to realize that anything that comes within a certain radius of him — animals or people — instantly drops dead.
(Warning for the really spoiler-averse: this trailer gives away some things that are better discovered by watching the film.)
What’s the genre?
Small-scale indie science fiction thriller. Think something between Safety Not Guaranteed and Colossal.
What’s it about?
Liam (Diego Klattenhoff, from Homeland and The Blacklist) has no memories after his accident. All he knows is that he’s creating a zone of instant death. Then a woman, also with no memories, comes to the shed where he’s hiding, and introduces herself as Jane Doe. Jane (Charlotte Sullivan, of Chicago Fire and Rookie Blue) has no idea how she knows him, and he has no idea how she can approach him and survive. The rest of the story unfolds from there, as they start piecing together their past and trying to figure out their future.
What’s it really about?
Labrèche and Léonard delve into a couple of interesting ideas here. One is how much loyalty we owe the past. Much like the Canadian science fiction series Dark Matter, Radius explores how much personality and predilections are…