Shane Woodson's performance alone is a compelling reason to watch writer/director David M. Parks's sci-fi/thriller Static Codes, a low-budget indie alien abduction chiller with a rich human interest story and engaging relationships.
Woodson is Richard Wiltz. We meet Richard, a paraplegic and wheelchair user, as he's hunched over a computer screen conducting a podcast we're quick to learn centers around conspiracy theories, alien abduction, and his own testimony of ten years earlier when his wife, Penelope (Taryn Manning), was reportedly abducted during a car crash that also injured his young daughter, Angela (Kelsey Morgan Arnold).
These days, Richard mostly drinks his days away unless he's broadcasting or conferring with a member of his seemingly small but committed audience. Now largely estranged from his adult daughter (Augie Duke) with only one friend to speak of, Steve (Mike Ferguson), Richard's life goes from bad to worse when his beloved dog falls ill and his website is unexpected confiscated.
Just at the point when it seems Richard might just give up, a late night visit from Penelope triggers something unexplainable that also leads to a reunification with his daughter and a desperate effort to finally uncover the mystery of what happened that night while those who want to keep it a secret is on his trail.
Static Codes is an ambitious film, especially for a low-budget indie, but Parks has crafted an intriguing story and Woodson carves a compelling figure as Richard. A longtime indie actor, Woodson convinces as a man whose resignation is deep yet who is equally convincing for his deeply held beliefs. Woodson is particularly strong in his scenes with Augie Duke, their familial bond completely believable and their emotional rhythms nicely companioning one another. Indeed, Augie Duke is quite impressive as Angela, the daughter who is both bitter and very tired of her father's conspiracy theories and sharing of her story with complete strangers. The two together are quite impressive.
It's arguable that Static Codes is overly ambitious, occasional special effects falling a wee bit short and overall production values at times reflecting the film's lower budget. This isn't always a bad thing, though at times it does hinder surrendering to the story. The original music by Frederick Shands does set a nice tone for the film and I was particularly drawn in by Migella Accorsi's production design.
Alien abduction films are a difficult thing to master and that's true even for studio films. So, despite some minor quibbles I'm still impressed by Parks's work here and his ability to pull off an engaging and involving story that for the most part satisfies. Static Codes is a terrific example of how much can be accomplished on a modest budget with the right team.
Picked up by indie distributor Indie Rights, Static Codes is currently available via your usual streaming channels.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic