A relatively unknown but charismatic Australian actor, Brenton Thwaites, could become a household name by the time all of his recent work arrives on cable.

A bit of a chameleon but as photogenic and direct as the late Paul Walker, he plays Prince Philip in Disney’s “Maleficent” and has leading roles in the horror film “Oculus” and the soon-to-be-released Meryl Streep/Jeff Bridges drama “The Giver.” On television, he starred in a remake of “The Blue Lagoon.”

In the twisty, initially engaging science-fiction entry “The Signal,” Thwaites is effectively cast as a troubled college student who appears to be losing his girlfriend (Olivia Cooke). At the same time, he sides with his nerdy best friend (Beau Knapp) to follow a trail suggested by a hacker.

The picture starts out as a scenic road movie, turns into a haunted-house thriller (imaginatively set in and under the desert) and eventually clicks as a shape-shifting vehicle for Laurence Fishburne. The Oscar-nominated actor gets to try on various disguises, among them a doltish bureaucrat and a darkish variation on the wizard of Oz.

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It’s fun while it lasts, though it feels less like a completed movie than a demonstration of director William Eubank’s spooky ability to shift gears and string genres together.

John Hartl: johnhartl@yahoo.com