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.

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