Tinfoil hat conspiracy theories always provide fertile ground for potentially great stories of the unexplained. Showing some promise as a filmmaker, David M. Parks tackles this topic with his directorial debut Static Codes. An alien abduction flick centering around the deep state and an alcoholic podcaster who broadcasts via ham radio? You have my attention.
Obsessed with the disappearance of his wife Penelope (Taryn Manning: Orange Is the New Black series), an alcoholic paraplegic named Richard (Shane Woodson: Heroes series) spends his booze filled nights hosting a ham radio podcast he calls True Encounters. Estranged from his daughter Angela (Augie Duke: Spring – check out our review here), this conspiracy theorist has only his sick dog, a small online community, and regular visits by a “born again” Christian named Steve (Mike Ferguson: The Flood – check out our review here) to keep him company.
Plagued with nightmares as he searches for answers to the night that left his life in ruins, Richard finally regains a sense of hope when he experiences a vision he believes is a message from his wife followed by a miracle. Has he been right all along? Was Penelope’s disappearance covered up by a BS official story crafted by the deep state?
Setting the stage with drama and mystery, Static Codes has potential. However, the next 20 to 30 minutes is spent establishing that Richard has a drinking problem and loves his missing wife without much plot development. Utilizing Richard’s podcast with call-ins from believers and non-believers could have added much needed layering while emphasizing the man’s problems without drawn-out vomiting scenes. This may have also created a better character-arch for audiences to become invested rather than simply meeting this conspiracy theorist at rock bottom.
Other ingredients for more spicy plot progression could have included several ominous and cryptic extra terrestrial visions. Even keeping the audience questioning as to whether or not the official story behind Penelope’s disappearance would have vastly improved this storyline.
Wasted screen-time and missed opportunities aside, Static Codes isn’t entirely an indie flop. Some solid acting, a nice deep state plot twist, and an earnest ending does keep this flick from reaching unwatchable status. Although slightly over-dramatic at times, Woodson is passable as a drunk podcast wielding conspiracy theorist in mourning. Not only is Duke a welcome familiar face from indie horror, but she perfectly plays a condescending young woman who’s resentment towards her father leads to commendable character development.
Another talented recognizable face is Sadie Katz (check out our interview here) making a brief appearance as a fellow conspiracy theorist and researcher seeking the truth that’s out there. However, it’s Ferguson who displays the most rage and range as he goes from “born again” choir boy to crazed “end your life” muscle in 0.5 seconds.
Prior to his first spin in the director’s seat, Parks’ primary filmmaking experience was in cinematography. This developed skill shows through in Static Codes. Having seen my fair share of indie directorial debuts, I can say scene framing and setting is a part of movie magic that you don’t know is crucial until it’s done poorly. Although there is always room for improvement, Parks can skip this part of the learning curve and continue to build off of his current camera skillset.
While it’s far from perfect and comes across as a director’s cut of a short film with scenes better off on the cutting room floor, Park’s directorial debut Static Codes does offer an interesting story at its core. This feature also showcases some great performances that help keep it afloat by indie standards. Last, but not least, this flick has a heartfelt ending that just might give you the fuzzies.
Static Codes is now available to rent or buy on YouTube.