This is essentially the story of a young man named Daniel (Danny Beissel) who falls victim to a conspiracy designed by an evil corporation that calls itself The Order. Presumably fresh out of college, Daniel has given up his dreams of becoming a poet to pursue a more lucrative career. After a strange and cryptic interview, he is hired by The Order for a boatload of money and sent to a tiny room where he takes on the identity of Jeremy, a guitar-playing hippie.
After six months of guitar practice, Jeremy hits the streets to infiltrate a band of long-haired radicals who distribute musical propaganda in hopes of awakening the world to The Order's far-reaching mind control activities. But things go awry for Jeremy when he becomes enamored with a cute brunette at the center of the resistance. Growing sympathetic to the resistance's cause, Jeremy is no longer motivated to carry out his mission and eliminate the group's leader.
The Order anticipates its agent's weakness. Tragedy ensues.
A word of advice to independent film makers: If at all possible, don't go it alone. It's rare to find a single individual who is genuinely talented as a writer, director, producer, and editor all at once. Like so many independent projects, where Conspiracized fails it does so because of its limited vision.
Like all propaganda, Conspiracized makes ample use of symbolism to convey its message. Quick, subliminal bursts of ominous icons pepper the film's storyline. In addition to the typical "all-seeing eye" on the back of the dollar bill, the filmmaker has developed his own symbol to represent the resistance movement, consisting of a triangle flanked by two circles as a representation of the tapes that are primary tools of the movement.
Unfortunately, the film's use of symbol relies more on repetition than development. Clearly, the pyramid is supposed to mean something; otherwise it wouldn't appear over and over again throughout the film. But the meaning is never elaborated upon and after a while it gets irritating rather than illuminating. To top it off, the music of the film (which is supposed to contain the message that liberates the world from The Order's plot) doesn't convey much at all.
Meanwhile, the intentions of The Order never come to light. Its members use stock phrases like "I assure you all will be ritualistic" when planning their activities, but apart from one chaotic and incomprehensible scene (that won't be discussed in specifics here so as not to spoil the ending) these lines don't seem to mean much.
All of this ambiguity might serve the film well if it were meant to convey a hidden message to the vast community of conspiracy theorists that enjoys movies like this one. But true conspiracy heads will be sorely disappointed in this film's superficial delivery. Everyone with even an inkling of paranoia already believes the pyramid on the dollar bill to have some occult and ominous meaning, and even the most pedestrian paranoiac has a more developed sense of what that symbol may mean and what the supposed global conspiracy is all about. That Conspiracized creator Chad Schultz fails to address this material will undoubtedly frustrate those who would otherwise compose this movie's core audience. Conspiracy buffs may be crazy, but they're generally more sophisticated than this film gives them credit for.
The problem here goes deeper than merely speaking to the conspiracy crowd; it's a matter of story development. Schultz experiments heavily with the use of subliminal flashes of symbols to carry the story along, but to little effect. With no concrete sense of what's at stake for the characters in this film, it's hard to care one way or the other what happens to them. Without knowing what The Order is up to or what the resistance hopes to accomplish, the whole thing seems pointless. And no amount of flashing triangles at the audience can make up for that.
Even so, Schultz is onto something. And while this method of using symbol to propel plot isn't as innovative as the film maker might hope (Richard Donner's Conspiracy Theory and Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys immediately come to mind), its successful application elsewhere suggests this emerging director may eventually apply it with greater results.
Moreover, Conspiracized's accomplishments in more basic aspects of film craft do compensate for the story's shortcomings. Schultz's direction brings a visual freshness to the film without pushing it over the cliff into the abyss of unwatchability in which so many independents land. And performances from Danny Beissel and Bob Weick keep the screen alive even when the story lapses into the realm of total inertia.
It's hard to recommend Conspiracized to anyone but the most ardent independent film buff. I certainly don't advise conspiracy freaks to spend their time on it. But I'd be surprised if at least a few of the personalities behind this picture didn't manage to move on to greater things in time, and for that it may be worth watching.
Run time: 83 mins
In Theaters: Friday 3rd October 2003
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: Chad Schultz
Producer: Chad Schultz
Screenwriter: Chad Schultz