In Patrik Eklund's The Conference (aka, Konferensen), a group of municipal employees goes to a cabin in the woods for a team-building exercise, though they are actually in the area to build a shopping center. As the group settles down in the cabin, we slowly learn that their shopping center plans are not exactly legal, but that doesn't stop Ingela (Maria Sid) and Jonas (Adam Lundgren) from dispensing positive vibes. One of the employees confidently states that you have to crack eggs to make pancakes. Whenever the team members sit down to have a discussion, they always end up arguing with each other, and during one such session, Lina (Katia Winter) informs everyone that her signatures have been forged in some documents. On one side, we have employees disagreeing with one another, and on the other, we have a masked killer who starts murdering the staff as well as the company members.
By now, you might have guessed that The Conference is something of a corporate thriller. Lands are illegally occupied, innocent farmers commit suicide, and a man wreaks vengeance on the individuals who support the development of the shopping center. This corporate angle is meant to provide some meat or depth to this slasher, but in the end, The Conference merely comes across as an unremarkably gory comedy horror. What's worse is that both the comedy and horror parts are feeble. Jonas dresses up as a mascot and makes funny sounds with his toy hammer. But the comic gesture is undercut by Jonas' sour mood, as he gets upset when everybody once again starts arguing with each other. And in the name of horror, we only get bodies being ripped to pieces.
There is a scene that attempts to strike a balance between the two moods, and it arrives when a woman stitches a head wound. But this moment is just too painful, and we recoil in horror. Of course, one can point toward that farmer and say that his suicide is a pretty solid source of pain and alarm. The problem, however, is that it feels like a footnote. The Conference uses characters as mouthpieces to make some statements, though ultimately, they are little more than chess pieces inserted in the film only to give rise to blood and gore. Their words, like their bodies, seem disposable. Take The Conference as simply a dumb slasher, and it still fails to rise to the occasion. The murders are executed without imagination, and along with the body count, a sense of ennui also increases.
Lina, with her serious, do-not-put-stress-on-me attitude, sticks out like a sore thumb in a movie that strives to crack you up through a cheesy commercial. The film doesn't know how to handle contrasting tones and makes a mess out of itself. Firecrackers burst in the sky while a body hangs from a pole, and this image tells us that Eklund has a wicked sense of humor. But his timings are off, and there is a shortage of creative fluids on the screen. The sole fountain of pleasure originates from Robert Krantz's editing, which gives us electrifying match cuts. In one scene, the camera energetically moves from one face to another when the characters sit down and talk to one another during an exercise (Simon Rudholm is the cinematographer). The Conference is not a good slasher. It's an extended showreel highlighting the strengths of the editor and the cinematographer.
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