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Guidestones Review

on Fri, 06/29/2012 - 00:00

Secret societies with hidden agendas have been part of mankind since the early ages of civilization. Freemasonry, for instance, began in the Sixteenth Century and has continually been tied to numerous conspiracy theories involving political manipulation and satanic religious beliefs. Gnosticism and Kabbalah have existed even longer, and supposedly contain esoteric truths regarding the Christian and Jewish faiths. Author Dan Brown was able to tap into the public’s inherent fascination of such unseen organizations with his 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, which combined many of the elements briefly outlined above. The serialized web series Guidestones, meanwhile, has modernized these myths with its own high stakes thriller by making the “cause and effect” of it mystery more contemporary.

Guidestones takes its name from an actual structure located in Elbert County, Georgia. The large granite slabs that resemble a modern day Stonehenge contain ten “guides” inscribed on them in eight modern languages, with a shorter message on its upper level that utilizes four additional ancient lexicons. The Georgia Guidestones were built in 1979 under the instruction of R.C. Christian, but the moniker is actually a pseudonym for the still unknown person or persons responsible for its construction. Conspiracy theories abound, most of which center on secret societies, satanic worshipers and clandestine agendas regarding a New World Order consisting of a worldwide religion and massive reduction in the Earth’s human population. There is also a prevalent belief that the followers of Rosicrucianism—an ancient esoteric theology founded in the early Fifteenth Century—are the mysterious entities behind the Guidestones.

The web series Guidestones takes these threads of the actual Guidestone mythology and weaves an intricate narrative from the strains, much like Dan Brown did with The Da Vinci Code. During the early stages of the storyline, journalism students Sandy Rai (Supinder Wraich) and Trevor Shale (Dan Fox) stumble upon the unsolved murder of scientist Harold Glenndenning (David Fox) while researching Christian architecture in Canada. Their resulting investigation leads them to a Rosicrucian Order and a mysterious female Deep Throat. “The goal was to secretly work towards the betterment of mankind,” Rai and Shale are told of the religious sect that was founded centuries earlier. “Over the next few hundred years this message of the ‘betterment of mankind’ actually evolved into a message of self-preservation.”

With their curiosity now fully aroused, Sandy Rai and Trevor Shale travel from Toronto to Georgia to India in an attempt to track down leads and piece together the growing mystery. In addition to being a serialized narrative filmed exclusively for the Internet, however, Guidestones is also an Alternative Reality Game similar in nature to The Lost Experience from 2006. That ARG, designed as a promotional device for the ABC drama Lost, contained hidden clues on both the World Wide Web and within the real world that led to secret snippets of video and a personal quest by the fictitious Rachel Blake for information on the Hanso Foundation, the secret organization behind the Dharma Initiative from the actual Lost television show.

Guidestones likewise contains secret codes, passwords, websites and video snippets that are not only central to the journey of Sandy Rai and Trevor Shale but for viewers conducting their own “investigation” as well. The original fifty short episodes of Guidestones were released in early 2012 and enabled fans to search for the same clues online that were discovered in the actual installments. For added effect, these installments themselves occurred in “real time”—if an episode took place two days after the previous one, it was literally released two days later.

Although the concept created a more urgent and intimate relationship between the web series and viewers, Guidestones is filmed in the same style as such big screen thrillers as The Bourne Identity, making the completed first season just as intriguing to watch in one lump session as it was in small snippets during the course of its original release. And yes, Guidestones does have a Bourne Identity aura to its production, including grainy frames, the constant fear of being followed, the innovative use of modern technology and a globetrotting narrative structure. Central character Sandy Rai also keeps a video journal of her investigation, which likewise serves as the basis for many of the web series’ shortened installments.

The Da Vinci Code contains a story that was millenniums in the making, with hidden clues placed centuries before the narrative actually begins. Guidestones follows the same basic premise of the Dan Brown novel but utilizes the mere decades-old Georgia Guidestones as its catalyst and a multitude of tech savvy devices for its own secret evidence instead. The deeper that Sandy Rai and Trevor Shale dig, meanwhile, the more intricate the plot becomes, entangling the pair of college journalists within its mythology as well. Guidestones is the type of entertainment that also ensnares its viewers, keeping them on the edge of their seats and filled with anticipation for the next installment.

In literary terms, The Da Vinci Code is known as a “pageturner”—a novel that readers cannot put down once they begin—and Guidestones is the web series equivalent of a “pageturner.” Whether one is inclined to “decode the mystery” in conjunction with Sandy Rai and Trevor Shale by searching the Internet for clues or merely watching the video narrative evolve on screen instead makes no difference—like a good book, once you start watching Guidestones, you just can’t stop.

Anthony Letizia (June 29, 2012)

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