The Last Radio Call Movie Review
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The Last Radio Call (2022) is a found-footage film centered around the disappearance of Office David Serling of the Yorktown Texas Police Department, from inside the abandoned, and supposedly haunted Yorktown Memorial Hospital. A year after his disappearance, after encountering a series of brick walls and dead-ends, his widow Sarah (Sarah Froelich) is determined to uncover the truth. With a willing documentary cameraman (Isaac Rodriguez) tailing her every move, Sarah pokes in places she has no business being, potentially uncovering secrets of the doomed city. David’s former partner, Giles (Ali Alkhafaji), and an unknown voice on the phone with “thousands and thousands of hours of raw footage” draw Sarah deeper into the cause of Yorktown’s unending misery
The Last Radio Call is a lean 75 minutes and that works to the film’s advantage, because it strains at belief in even the most benign scenes. The police don’t know how to hold their service pieces, or wait for backup, or not split up. The backstory of what may lie in wait in Yorktown Memorial Hospital is such an eye-rolling trope that it’s cringe-worthy. Finally, armed with all that information, Sarah remains steadfastly reckless, confrontational, and deliberately ignorant.
I do not love the Sarah character. Sher isn’t remotely sympathetic, and a widow’s strong resolution is replaced by petulant whining. This isn’t the fault of the actress since she’s not given much to work with, other than wilting sighs and staring at the camera for long beats of emotional validation. While the creeper cameraperson looks on, often in moments of what we’re to assume are “unguarded and private,” Sarah is at her most emotional, drinking, muttering to herself, screaming into a dead walkie-talkie. I don’t think it gets across whatever Rodriguez intended.
The bodycam found footage is creepy and atmospheric, the cameraman’s footage satisfies the basic narrative, but the dialogue every character is forced to say is painful. There is often dialogue where there shouldn’t be dialogue, forced audio filler that wrecks the mood. If you’re in an abandoned hospital and suddenly, a perfect train of water bottles appears behind you, do you really think your best verbal play is, “Is someone messing with us?” During a meta-documentary of the Yorktown Hospital, the narrator says, “The hospital still stands today like a rotting corpse deep in the heart of Texas.”
Are standing corpses a thing in Texas?
Would this have worked as nothing but pieced together bodycam footage of one doomed officer experiencing gruesome supernatural run-ins before his disappearance? Probably. It certainly would have been an easier watch and far more compelling without the histrionics.
The dilapidated hospital makes for an appropriately eerie setting. Rodriguez has an eye for sinister shadows and unsettling scenes of weird wraiths, with corner-of-the-eye apparitions, and blink-and-you’ll-miss-them spooks, but those moments are sprinkled unevenly among tiresome exposition and wooden acting. The last ten minutes bring the most tension, and the editing and camera work are really clever. It’s just not enough to save the other hour’s worth of film.
As a “mockumentary,” it’s clunky and sloppy, with way too much of the 1st person/4th wall scenes and more reaction footage, which stalls rather than propelling the story along. We don’t need to watch someone watching a monitor. As an entry to the found-footage genre, there’s too much blah and not enough aahh.
It’s 75 minutes of self-sabotage that would probably work better at 35-40 minutes, with way less Sarah and more hospital creeping. Those scenes make really sell the haunted atmosphere. Otherwise, it’s a disjointed collection of potentially terrifying footage, surrounded by home footage of Sarah’s back as she walks places.
The Last Radio Call (2022) is unrated, but let’s call it PG-13 for swears, a legitimately terrifying creature and fantastic audio editing, creepy scares, people getting shot, a severed head, the aftermath of a gunshot suicide, and police just letting themselves into places without a warrant.