Dead Air opens with a rush of urgent music and what sounds like garbled voices in the background and opaque footage of what looks like two people arguing. Then what sounds like a gunshot takes us into the opening credits. It’s quite the adrenaline-charged start for a slow-burning, dialogue-driven film.
William (Kevin Hicks, Behind the Door, Paranormal Proof) father died when he was young. Until recently all he’s known him by was an old picture. However, that changes when he finds several boxes of his possessions that his mother had stashed in the attic forty years ago. Among other things, they contain his father’s old ham radio. Playing around with it, Willian contacts Eva (Vickie Hicks, Dark Seduction) who suffers from paranoia and agoraphobia. The radio is her only connection to the outside world.
But there’s something else out there among the radio waves. Something dark, something connected to the memories William has repressed since childhood. What is Eva’s connection to all of this? More importantly, can he save himself and his daughters Mindy (Madison Skodzinsky) and Shanna (Mackenzie Skodzinsky) from it?
Dead Air is set in 1984 for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent as it really doesn’t seem to affect the story. A throwaway bit of dialogue in the first act should be a strong clue as to why though. And if you pick up on it you can figure out a lot of where the plot is heading rather easily. Especially if you’ve seen the trailer.
That isn’t as bad as it sounds, however. Even though I guessed one of the film’s bigger twists, there were several that I didn’t see coming left to surprise me. And it was a lot of fun trying to figure out how the plot was going to get from point A to point B. In that regard, some of the scenes between William and his psychiatrist Dr.Jennings (Chris Xaver, Invisible Ink) straddle the line between helpful and to expository. They do play nicely into a final twist that leaves you questioning much of what you just watched.
In addition to interesting and complex characters, Dead Air’s story will surprise everyone, as one twist leads to another,” said filmmakers Vickie Hicks and Kevin Hicks. “It was exciting for us to explore what we could do with a haunted radio, and the consequences of talking to strangers”
Director Kevin Hicks and writer Vickie Hicks have found a plot that works on what was obviously a very limited budget. While not the most original plot, a radio that picks up strange transmissions does eliminate the need for expensive effects. By fleshing Dead Air out with some family drama involving William’s childhood as well as his relationship with his own daughters they manage to expand the story in an unexpected direction without inflating the budget.
Of course, the lack of effects and emphasis on dialogue means a certain segment of the audience will find Dead Air to be dead dull. The fact the supernatural elements don’t kick in until later in the film will only add to that. I found the story interesting enough to hold my attention and, at times, keep me guessing. So many low-budget horror films that shouldn’t be all talk, such as Ghost Light and Rise of the Mummy, turn out to be just that. For once it was nice to know going in that was what I was getting. And as long as they know this going in viewers should be satisfied as well.