Dead Air (2021)

If you’ve spent any time surfing around the streaming-verse pages of Amazon Prime and other services, then you’re familiar with the resume of Ithaca, New York-based filmmaker Kevin Hicks, who made his feature film writing and directing debut with the mobster comedy Waiting on Alphie (2005), the horror-thriller Paranormal Proof (2010), the horror-mystery Behind the Door (2014), and his most recent effort, the paranormal horror Doppel (2020).

Now Kevin has teamed with his wife Vickie (his writer and co-star; she also wrote Doppel and the currently in-production The Forever Room) for his fifth feature film: one that deals with a haunted, antique ham radio set.

Upon cleaning out the home of his recently deceased mother, William (Kevin Hicks) discovers his late father’s old ham radio set. As he fires up the radio, he begins an over-the-air friendship with Eva (Vicki Hicks). As does William, Eva also deals with dark secrets seeded in a past family trauma. And William comes to discover his connection to Eva goes beyond just an innocent ham radio transmission. And there’s “something” that wants out of that radio set.

As we’ve said many times in our reviews of these up-against-the-budget vanity projects of the streaming-verse that delve into the horror genre: don’t come a knockin’ for an A-24 or Blumhouse horror flick because the shock-scares ain’t a-knockin’. But if you’re into a character-driven supernatural drama that, because of budgetary constraints, goes the dialog route to tell its story, then there’s something here for you to curl up with on Friday evening under your digital device’s glow. So, instead of a mystery novel, why not a mystery movie, for a change?

Kevin and Vickie Hicks are low-budget filmmakers shooting with thin budgets on iPhones and other digital devices that need to be given a wider berth than major and mini-major studio filmmakers, such as TV scribe Gregory Hoblit, with his Dennis Quaid-starring Frequency (2000), to which Dead Air has been compared by streaming-verse commenters. (If you’re not familiar with the Hoblit name: he also gave us the Denzel Washington-starring Fallen (1998) and the 2002 Bruce Willis vehicle, Hart’s War. I’ve seen former in passing on cable; I’ve never seen or have any interest in the latter.)

I’ve watched Frequency in passing on cable several years ago — and a few years after its initial release. So while others opine Dead Air is a “rip off” of that other ham-radio-from-beyond flick, I can’t attest to that fact, as I really don’t recall much of the Dennis Quaid film, other than it also starred Mel Gibson’s “Jesus,” Jim Caviezel, in the controversial Passion of the Christ. Others have cross-referenced the never-heard-of-and-never-seen (at least moi; it was released before B&S About Movies came into being) Canadian thriller The Caller (2011), concerned with an apartment’s “haunted” telephone line. I guess you’d have to be one of that film’s 86 IMDb users to make that critique-connection of The Caller to Dead Air.

Since this is my first Kevin and Vickie Hicks flick, I also can’t attest if Dead Air is an improvement over his earlier works. But as I researched Kevin’s career, I’ve come to learn he’s had a long, successful career in music video and commercial production. And he’s brought those skills to the table, as Dead Air, while not a visually stunning film, is certainly a well-shot film and Kevin and Vicki each bring competent thespian skills to set. The rest of their cast is pretty fine, too, and are certainly above the thespin’ frays of most indie streamers.

Dead Air, a supernatural family-oriented drama, is now available on a number of digital and cable platforms, including Amazon Video and Vudu from Freestyle Digital Media. The studio, run Bryon Allen, who recently launched the black-centric cable network The Grio (it’s airing all of the old ’70s blaxploitation classics), recently picked up an indie-film we really enjoyed, the cat-turns-into-a-human dramedy, Shedding. Another indie we reviewed that was recently picked up for wider distribution by Freestyle is the horror-comedy Hawk & Rev: Vampire Slayers. You can also learn more about the commercial production-to-feature film career of Kevin Hicks at his official website.

Disclaimer: We received a screener from the distributor’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.

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