Four strangers, all with different and misunderstood medical conditions, find themselves working with a scientist to create a new virus. They become exposed to one of the untested viruses during a government shut down but flee into the desert to avoid having to live out their days in quarantine.
Now usually when we use the term 'experimental' it is often in reference to arthouse and surreal movies but "Radiant" is a bit different in terms of experimental. "Radiant" can be considered an arthouse movie but it isn't necessarily going for that title, rather the experimental aspects of it are more along the lines of how it tells its story and how it’s edited. Through these changes the movie is trying to hide and overcome its obvious micro-budget restriction while also making it a little more interesting for the audience.
The premise for "Radiant" is basic: a group of survivors wander into a desert trying to escape government capture while they act as hosts to an unknown deadly virus. The virus aspect of the story serves little more than as a plot point; it is never explored nor ever really explained throughout the movie. It can be seen as a subliminal message for different things, like fear of a biological weapon, or about our current state of medicine and science. But since the movie doesn't touch on the virus aspect much, it seems like it works more as a reason to why our characters are doing what they are doing and to help the protagonist (Ed Moss) of the movie go on his inward journey. Because the movie focuses on the character Ed much more than anyone else, this is where part of the experimental style steps in. "Radiant" is more about an evolution of a character rather than a resolution of a story, so the character Ed actually narrates most of the movie. Waxing philosophies about life, existence and reasoning for what is going on. It becomes a bit repetative after awhile since, as I said, it's all about Ed so often what is said has little to do with anything or stating what is going on in his head. The actor's low and dreary monotone voice doesn't help the situation either.
Because there isn't much to movie in terms of story, characters, or action; the look of "Radiant" was also experimented with. It never gets to wild, weird, or surreal with the imagery but it was given quite a bit of attention with editing and general post-production work. To give the movie a somewhat fever-dream like quality but as I said earlier, not really trying to go into the surrealist realm. Some have compared it to the style of Kubrick, with the way it tells the story and how the movie plays out in general. It seems like a reasonable comparison if Kubrick was still new to filmmaking and grew up in the video age. Like the story though there isn't much to get out of the visuals. It does indeed help make the movie a bit more interesting but beyond that it doesn't serve any other purpose.
I can appreciate what Steve Mahone was trying to do with "Radiant" and I can even appreciate his attempts at making it visually interesting and have the movie be a bit different. For me though, watching "Radiant" was a dull experience; I wasn't able to get anything out of the movie to make it feel worthwhile. A lot of the messages and ideas seem forced, almost like it was trying too hard to say something. To give it some credit, there are some elements within the movie that will help other viewers get something out of the movie where I did not. "Radiant" I would say is on par with other titles like "Ice From the Sun" or "Frankenstein's Bloody Nightmare" so I'm sure it will gain a small following.