Monday, May 20, 2024

Putting the Kill In Your 401K


It's shocking to me how rare the horror genre dips into workplace culture. Setting your film in an office opens up such a great opportunity for a diverse mixture of ages and skills, yet it's all too rare to see it explored. For every ten summer camp sessions or ski trips, we seem to get one Belko Experiment.

Like Severance (one of the all-too-rare co-worker slashers), The Conference takes an office team and moves them to a corporate teambuilding excursion. So yes, we get more cabins than cubicles, but it's something.

Quick Plot: Who needs family farmland when you can have an exclusive mall and residential housing for white people? That's the attitude of boss Ingela and project manager Jonas as they take their corporate team out to the woods for a work retreat in celebration of the big upcoming ribbon cutting ceremony to break ground. 

Two things stand in the way: Lina, the rare businesswoman with a conscience who went on sick leave right before Jonas finished some fudgie paperwork, and Sooty, someone who has found the oversized mascot head for the mall and wears it as he machetes his way through the cabin staff and their guests. 

All in all, it's just a hair worse than trust exercises and work-mandated potato sack races.

Directed and co-written by Patrick Eklund, The Conference is exactly what you hope to find in a horror comedy. We get a memorable slasher mask, inventive kills, clever comedy, and biting satire about corporate greed. What's not to like?

High Points
This is a big SPOILER, so skip ahead if that's not your style: The Conference is very much a traditional slasher, but it has a refreshing ending in NOT killing all but our final girl. In my younger years, such an act of mercy might have annoyed me, but today, it feels...nice. Some people deserve to live (or at the very least, to not die horribly at the hands of a vengeful farmer) and it felt genuinely GOOD to walk away from this movie seeing some of the perfectly fine and surprisingly capable characters limp off into the sunset (and hopefully, a very nice severance package)

Low Points
Considering the substantial size of the cast (by slasher standards), it feels like there could have been a little more time spent in introducing the characters and the roles within the company. The ones who DO get that attention (Jonas, Ingela) are clearly established, but as we round the last act, it's a bit frustrating to not necessarily remember some of the last employees standing

Lessons Learned
There's a big difference between goals for the climate and goals for the environment

Charcoal burners were once the proletariat of the forest

There are plenty of white gang members in Sweden (though they rarely make the cut in feel-good corporate video ads)

I had a grand old time with The Conference, streaming now on Netflix. It's a sharp satire with some successful laughs, plus plenty of fresh horror violence, including gore you've never quite seen before. Put on your away message and have a go.

Monday, May 13, 2024

My Buddy Cop


Monday, May 6, 2024

A Shallow Descent

I like hiking. It's a great way to exercise while taking in the best our planet has to offer. It can make your body and mind feel satisfied in a way that few other activities can. 

Monday, April 29, 2024

If You Have to Have a Blackout, Best to Have It During This Movie


Monday, April 22, 2024

Mother is Smothering

It's always exciting to discover a new genre filmmaker with a fresh voice and style. I adored Aneesh Chaganty's Searching, so when I finally realized the straight-to-Hulu 2020 thriller was also one of this (along with co-writer Sev Ohanian) it seemed like the right time to finally dive in (four years after the rest of the world, as is my style).

Quick Plot: Diane is more than ready to send daughter Chloe to college. Born with a bundle of health issues (diabetes, paralysis, asthma, arrhythmia, and a few more syllables explained in the opening credits), Chloe has grown into an incredibly capable young woman who manages her body in between homeschooling and the dozens of daily medication doses issued by her mom.

As Chloe anxiously awaits her college acceptance, she begins to notice certain aspects of her daily routine not adding up. Could her mother be tampering with her medication? Hiding university mail? Building an entire life on a lie?

Obviously, going too much further would spoil much of Run so I'll stop there, though it's not terribly difficult to guess its turns (including a late-breaking reveal that many will call early on). While not packed with narrative surprises, Run does have a few other key factors in its favor.

Sarah Paulson has a lot of fun crafting a homeschooling, organically-grown tomato-eating monster mom, but it's Kiera Allen who holds Run together. The script doesn't quite justify some of her obliviousness, but Allen does an incredible job of pulling us into her character's body and headspace. 

Chaganty has a very different job here than he did on Searching. Where that film wove a mystery out of pure story, Run is all action. Well, not necessarily the kind you probably associate with that word, but it's characters locking doors before others can get there and trying to ask for help while stifled with tubes down their throats. It's a different style, and Changanty does it well.

Run didn't fully grab me, mostly because the script just isn't nearly as clever as it probably needed to be to really click. But this is still an engrossing little film that made for a sufficiently satisfying watch.

High Points
It's an obvious Hitchcock/Bernard Herrmann homage, but it works: Torin Borrowdale's score uses angry strings to great effect

Low Points
The cast helps overcome a lot of this, but as a viewer, it's a bit hard to get past some of the details. How exactly DOES Chloe, a very bright if sheltered person, go 18 years without actually seeing a regular doctor or having a conversation without someone that isn't her mother or mailman?

High Points
Pacific Northwesterners are incredibly patient when it comes to waiting in line

The way to a pharmacist's heart is a challenging scavenger hunt

A stranger is just a google search assistant you haven't met

Run doesn't quite add up to a great movie, but it achieves plenty of tension and stays entertaining all the way through. Worth a glance on Hulu.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Leaving Las Vegas