“Radius,” a new piece of speculative fiction starring Diego Klattenhoff and Charlotte Sullivan, comes with a premise Rod Serling might have admired.
The high concept is simple. For unknown reasons amnesiac Liam Hartwell (Klattenhoff) is a walking, talking death machine. Anyone within a fifty-foot radius of him keels over, instantly collapsing in a lifeless heap. As the bodies pile up he hides out in a remote farmhouse, shut off from people. Overcome by guilt, he grapples with his condition, trying to formulate a life plan that does not involve instantaneous mortality for those in his circle.
Into this charged situation comes Jane Doe (Sullivan), another amnesiac who is immune to his death stare. Turns out when she’s around, everyone who comes into the kill zone is also safe. The pair hit the road in an effort to piece together the fragments of memory that haunt them both and hopefully get to the bottom of Liam’s deadly disorder.
The big challenge of “Radius” is keeping the mystery compelling for ninety minutes. It’s an intriguing idea, but it’s also a one-note idea. Until Jane shows up, that is. Then the ”Twilight Zone” premise opens up, allowing for deeper mystery and questions about the very essence of how memory shapes who we are as people. Writer-directors Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard gently pull the story into focus, beginning with scenes of disorientation that give way to an ending that packs an emotional wallop.
“Radius” is not without its flaws. The film’s budgetary restrictions are apparent throughout and there is some stilted acting but this is intelligent sci fi, a film whose ideas and open-ended questions are more important than its budget.
Salman Rushdie once wrote, “Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.” It’s a quote that resonates throughout “Lavender,” a new psychological thriller starring Abbie Cornish as a woman whose ghostly, fragmented memories haunt her.
In this elegant and eerie movie from “The Last Exorcism II” director Ed Gass-Donnelly, Cornish stars as Jane, a photographer who snaps pictures of old, dilapidated homes. One house in particular seems to have a draw on her, but after photographing it she has visions, one of which cause her to run her car off the road. Suffering memory loss, she undergoes therapy to stimulate repressed memories, a treatment that works all too well. Soon strange boxes appear, seeming to be clues to a past she had long ago left behind. Jane’s unfinished business comes flooding back in the form of long forgotten memories of a tragic and unsettling event.
“Lavender” is a hallucinatory study of the hidden horrors of the mind, a look at false memories and how they can be used as a shield from madness. It follows a well-trodden path—previously explored in mind movies like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Shining”—but Gass-Donnelly’s deliberate, almost trance-like direction lends plenty of atmosphere to the story. He effectively milks an emotional response with an anxiety inducing score by Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson and an assured performance from Cornish.
Cornish is at the very center of “Lavender,” grounded and eerie at the same time, she’s a sympathetic character with a hint of menace. This character driven story gives Cornish the chance to explore the psychological implications of a woman uncovering her uncertain past.