Without All The Film School Padding, 'Shortwave' Would Be, Well, Short

By James Jay Edwards
Released: October 24, 2017
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A modern and unrelentingly tense psychological thriller based on a theory of the origins of shortwave radio frequencies, Shortwave is an unnerving reminder that some stones are best left unturned.

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Film Review
Shortwave is about a couple, Josh (The Stranger's Cristobal Tapia Montt) and Isabel (Juanita Ringling from the "C" section of The ABCs of Death), who moves to a secluded country estate in order to put their lives back together after the disappearance of their child. Josh is a research scientist, and his partner, Thomas (Into the Storm's Kyle Davis), accompanies the couple so that he and Josh can continue their work studying short wave radio frequencies. Josh and Thomas have a breakthrough, discovering a signal that they believe originates from a galaxy that is light years away. The radio waves have an adverse effect on Isabel, however, causing her to have dreams and hallucinations that seem harmless at first, but soon reveal more sinister forces at work.

Christobal Tapia Montt in SHORTWAVE, courtesy Cue Mark Films.

Written and directed by Ryan Gregory Phillips (Southern Comfort), Shortwave is a modest sci-fi thriller that tries to mask itself as an art film. There's a fairly coherent (if not always compelling) plot to it, but the narrative is constantly and consistently interrupted by unnecessary, soft-focused, Vaseline-on-the-lens, time-killing montages set to hilariously bad pop songs. The dreamy segments look good, but they do very little to forward the story. They just serve to pad the running time of the film in order to get the thin story up to feature length.

There's a definite student film vibe to Shortwave. There are some good ideas in it, but they get bogged down with Phillips' attempts to make his film seem artsy and intelligent. The repetitively droning score and annoying sound design also give the film an amateurish feel, distracting from any core story that might try to punch through the pretention. And, as if all of that isn't enough, the over-the-top ending further solidifies Shortwave's straight-to-video legacy.

Juanita Ridgeling in SHORTWAVE, courtesy Cue Mark Films.

If all the film school shtick were stripped away, there would be a decent movie in Shortwave. It would be a short one, but it would be watchable. With that filter in mind, Shortwave is worth a look.
Scary Factor
While Shortwave is more of a sci-fi thriller than a straight-up horror movie, there are a handful of scares in the film. Most of them are crafted through editing and sound design, which means that images are slammed onto the screen suddenly while an eardrum-busting sound effect breaks the previously suspenseful silence. It is in these moments that Shortwave's VOD/Home Video release works against it, because the loud scream scares would be exponentially more effective in a darkened theater surrounded by a bunch of like-minded folks who are all just waiting to be scared. At home, it's not quite be the same, but Shortwave is good for a few jumps and jolts, even in that safe environment.

Juanita Ridgeling in SHORTWAVE, courtesy Cue Mark Films.

Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date
October 24, 2017
Production Designer
Music Score