‘Radioflash’ Review: The Hills Have Spies

“Radioflash” is selling itself as a survival thriller, which is half right. In truth, this “Deliverance”-style clash between Reese (Brighton Sharbino), a savvy teenager, and a passel of backwoods archetypes is only marginally more thrilling than the average wine tasting.

At fault is a threadbare, irritatingly vague script (by the director and artist Ben McPherson) that simply strings together a series of generic setups and forgettable characters. A promising opening establishes Reese’s problem-solving smarts as she battles through a challenging virtual-reality survival game. Later, when an unexplained event knocks out all power and communications, we expect to see her apply those skills to real-life dangers. Instead, she spends most of the movie locked in a cellar, fleeing unwashed strangers or trussed in a bag as bear bait.

Aiming for post-apocalyptic dread and landing on hill-dweller horseplay, McPherson parcels out underwritten roles to actors who deserve better. Will Patton, playing Reese’s grandfather like a doomsday-prepping Grizzly Adams, mostly disappears until it’s time to save the day. And Dominic Monaghan, as Reese’s widowed father, vanishes so swiftly that Reese might as well have been an orphan from the get-go. As for Fionnula Flanagan, stuck in a wheelchair in a filthy mountain shack, the role of Maw — a scheming Irish matriarch herding two knuckle-dragging menfolk — is definitely a career low.

According to Granddad (and the press notes), the term “radioflash” describes an electromagnetic pulse indicating a nuclear detonation, but the movie is indifferent to the cause of the power failure. As indifferent, perhaps, as audiences will be to Reese’s fate.


Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes.

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