IFC Midnight’s Radioflash Is a Gorgeous Burst of Messiness

Radioflash by IFC Midnight is a predictable end of days film that goes nowhere but does so in glorious style.

Courtesy of IFC Midnight
Dominic Monaghan and Brighton Sharbino in Radioflash (2019)

A typical, but smarter than average, teen girl(Brighton Sharbino) and her father(Dominic Monaghan), who live a normal technology-rich life, are swept up in an end of days scenario when an EMP or “radioflash” takes out the power grid. The power loss presents itself as permanent. The girl’s grandfather(Will Patton) who turns out is not crazy has been preparing his whole life. He even went so far as to set up a ham radio for his granddaughter to find in emergencies. Less than 24 hours after the power loss they begin the harrowing trek through the worst of mankind to the safety he offers.

It’s a story that has been told many times before. Utter chaos reigns when the constraints of civilization break down. Netflix tried it in How It Ends, The Trigger Effect takes an intimate approach to the madness, and Blackout focuses on a documentary-style narrative. Some are better than others, but they all have in common the belief that when technology goes, so does order. Anyone shopping on Black Friday hoping for one of the dirt-cheap big screen tv deals can imagine the fighting over essentials like water and food.

Radioflash takes its name from another term for Electromagnetic Pulses. The pulse of the film comes from a compelling if underused performance from Will Patton(Halloween). If I’m being honest, he is slumming it a little in this well shot but questionably written survival tale. With the exception of Monaghan the rest of the actors are relative unknowns. The actors are not given groundbreaking dialogue to deliver so most do the best with what they have.

Whole conversations are had about sweet canteen water in between stunning landscape shots of nature. Shot in Idaho, a stand-in for the rural Pacific Northwest, this film could easily be repurposed as a tourism ad for what appears to be a beautiful state. The juxtaposition of hollow dialogue and backdrop are jarring, to say the least. The cinematography from Austin F. Schmidt is fantastic. Panning closeups, soft-focus glamour shots, and wide-angle overviews work seamlessly together to bring the untouched wild to the screen. His framing breathes life to the underwritten story. By the time the final act is presented, one that completely takes the tension out of the story, you are left with a still pretty but waning flower you wish someone would have left alone.

The bombastic soundtrack drives key moments of danger more so than the actual action. Typical survival themes combine with inbred nutters to endanger Reese over and over as she jumps out of the frying pan and into the proverbial fire time and again. Backwoods Hillbillies pulled straight from every Cabin In The Woods style film deliver stilted lines and participate in an overly long chase scene that would be painful if not for the great music by Ramin Kousha. It’s the kind of movie that might be better served without dialogue to enjoy the superb.

Writer/Director Ben McPherson produces a movie that is uneven and tonally superficial. Borrowing heavily from many different classics, it’s clear he wasn’t convinced his film should be any specific genre and thus dabbled in them all without conviction. That lack of commitment leaves the film devoid of any real charm, less the photography. Frustration more than anything else is the emotion felt as the credits roll. This is a message film that only whispers the words on mostly deaf ears. Instead of shouting or boldly stating the obvious, you are left with the vague notion McPherson wanted to say more.

IFC has had several hits lately with I Trapped The Devil and Knives and Skin notably. Unfortunately, Radioflash is not one of them. For lovers of scenic nature, you won’t find a better film though.

Radioflash is out everywhere on VOD.

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