There are only two kinds of mountain people: those chasing a dream and those being chased. Brighton Sharbino and Dominic Monaghan head for those mountains in the new apocalyptic Thriller Radioflash, which arrives to select theaters on Friday, November 15th, 2019, thanks to IFC Midnight.
Widower Chris (Monaghan: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001, Lost series) and his teenage daughter Reese (Sharbino: The Walking Dead series, Bitch 2017), a lover of eSports, are sitting down for a quiet meal when the power goes out. Initially it appears to be a fluke native to their Spokane, Washington neighborhood, though fairly soon it becomes clear that an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) has taken down the entire Western power grid of the United States.
A highly intelligent young woman, Reese is able to contact her survivalist grandfather, Frank (Will Patton: Armageddon 1998, Halloween 2018), via a rigged radio, and he urges the pair to get to his remote cabin in the woods quickly. With no power, food or water, the situation in the city and on the roads is steadily devolving as father and daughter pack up and hit the highway. Eyes set on their goal, the pair must overcome a myriad of life-threatening obstacles if they hope to reach the safety of their destination.
Clocking in at 102 minutes, Radioflash is a feature-length directorial debut for its exceptional director, Ben McPherson (Storpio short 2006, Fix short 2014), who co-wrote its screenplay along with survivalist and emergency preparedness expert Matt Redhawk (Home short 2017). The film also features the acting talents of Miles Anderson (La La Land 2016, The Wind 2018), Fionnula Flanagan (The Others 2001, Havenhurst 2016), Michael Filipowich (Charlie Jade series, It Stains the Sands Red 2016), Kyle Collin (Cheerleader 2016, Shameless series), Sean Cook (The Ward 2010, Knights of Badassdom 2013), Arden Myrin (Orange Is the New Black series, Insatiable series), and more.
An apocalyptic/survivalist Thriller, Radioflash establishes its thick tension with an electromagnetic pulse that sends a father and daughter on the run. While other films of the subgenre tend to focus on the horrors (read: gore) encountered along the way, Radioflash relies more heavily on each of the characters that step into the picture at the most unlikely moments. In this, this tale relies heavily on the acting talents of its exceptional cast, as well as the stunning natural landscapes that are brought to life via the splendid cinematography of Austin F. Schmidt (Scavengers 2013, Friends and Romans 2014).
With the bulk of the screen time going to Sharbino, a hefty weight is placed on her shoulders as she portrays a superbly intelligent and well-read young woman who is confident and rugged enough to take on this daunting, wild landscape. Reese is a perfect role model for young girls, in that, even when the circumstances become most dire, she never bends or breaks; instead she always focuses on the solution rather than becoming mired in her troubles. Sharbino is fierce in the role, bringing a graceful humanity and gentle positivity to an apocalyptic world; reminding us all that hope is eternal.
Her co-stars are all equally exceptional in their roles. Monaghan has a wonderful chemistry with Sharbino, bringing their father-daughter relationship to life and making its wholly believable. Similarly, Patton is magnificent as the quirky, survivalist grandfather that has been brushed off as being slightly insane, while Anderson is touching in the role of the kindly farmer Glenn. A reminder that even at the end of the world there can still be good people, he provides a second helping of hope in this brave new world.
Flanagan’s vile Maw, however, is eerily flawless. Creepy in her mechanized wheelchair, harsh in her backwoods demeanor, Maw is memorable in a sea of cretons like Filipowich‘s Bill. In this, Flanagan delivers yet another wonderful performance to add to her resume. Much in contrast to this, Collin’s Quinn is another sympathetic character; a soft-spoken, timid young man who is regularly beaten by his father. For this, Collin also brings a dose of humanity to the wild countryside.
Radioflash is fairly blunt with its simplicity versus technology, country versus city theme. Fortunately, a clear-cut line is never drawn in either way of life’s favor, allowing for an understanding that each option is weighed heavily with both positive and negative. A reflection of nature itself, the people that Reese encounters along her journey are both tender and deadly. Though this story is certainly nothing new, stellar casting, perfect cinematography and extraordinary natural beauty (thanks to Idaho), and a solid screenplay come together to craft a hopeful apocalyptic Thriller that is wholly enjoyable. For this, Cryptic Rock give Radioflash 4.5 of 5 stars.