Review by James Lindorf
In July of 1962, the US carried out the Starfish Prime test, exploding a 1.44 megaton bomb, 250 miles above the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and the resulting EMP disrupted electronics in Hawaii 898 miles from the blast. That is the day they learned how devastating and widespread the damage from a nuclear bomb could be even without hitting a major city. Named after the “click” typically heard on radio receivers when an atomic bomb was detonated, Radioflash thrusts viewers into a world where an unknown event has wiped out all electronics in the Western United States. Reese (Brighton Sharbino), a tech-obsessed teenager and her father Chris (Dominic Monaghan) chooses to flee the dangers of the city, and seek refuge with her doomsday-prepper grandfather (Will Patton) in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. The power goes out on November 15th, 2019.
Reese is a budding game designer and an avid fan of survival VR games, able to “beat” even the most difficult ones. The games serve as an escape as she adjusts to a world without her mother. When the power goes out, Reese instantly gets anxious, and though her father does his best to calm her fears, the minute he is asleep, she tries to make contact with her grandfather. A widescale power outage is what he has spent at least the latter part of his life planning for, and he talks Reese through a plan for her and her father to come to join him. Along the way, they may meet a nice person or two, but most of the time is spent having to dodge car accidents, carjackers, and psychotic backwoodsmen.
The opening scene of Radioflash is better than many of the traps in the later Saw films and could be a strong point for Writer/Director Ben McPherson going forward in his career. McPherson and Cinematographer Austin F. Schmidt did a fantastic job capturing the immense beauty of the pacific northwest in its may variations. Unfortunately, while the first-time feature film director showed promise, he needs to work on pairing down his scripts and making better use of his characters. Dominic Monaghan and Will Patton are so underused it is a shock that they signed on to the project. Reese struggles with loss, imprisonment, and abuse, while the audience suffers through a film with an overflow of ideas. Is the movie about the end of the world and society’s response to it, a young woman coming to terms with death, or is it an uninspired Texas Chainsaw Massare knockoff? Radioflash is neither-fish-nor-fowl-nor-cow-nor-sow; it is everything at once like some Frankenstein turducken and is lesser than the sum of its parts.
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