Netflix is not the destination for horror. And in 2023, the streaming platform has made little, to no, effort even trying to reach out to horror fans. They’re not even using the ‘Netflix and Chills‘ category for their Halloween-themed movies. Still the platform has added several older – and even a few classic – horror title. And if you take the time to scroll through the horror list, you’ll stumble across a few new options. Case in point, Swedish horror-comedy The Conference is now available. There’s not much information out there about this one. Based on the available promotional material, it looks similar to the 2006 British horror-comedy, Severance. So far the available reviews are pretty positive.
Several months after a leave of absence, Lina has returned to work just in time for a corporate retreat. Her company is in the middle of a huge shopping mall development that has divided the community. Amidst the backstabbing and corporate team-building, a masked stranger has arrived with an axe to grind.
The Conference Stills Finds Plenty of Dark Laughs Amidst Familiarity
If The Conference feels a bit familiar – or a lot familiar – there’s a good reason. Though one wouldn’t say there are ‘a lot’ of horror movies skewering corporate culture, we’ve seen more than enough to recognize where this slasher is going. Most recently, The Belko Experiment and Mayhem centered their narratives around the idea that the corporate ladder is literal violence. However, it’s the 2006 British horror-comedy Severance that feels most like the spiritual predecessor to The Conference. Writer and director Patrick Eklund – and co-writers Thomas Moldestad and Mats Strandberg – aren’t re-inventing the wheel. All of the plotting, including the killer reveal, fall in line with expectations. Even the dark humor feels like it’s carved out of a template. Simply put, The Conference leans heavily on familiar tropes, for better or worse.
If The Conference feels a bit familiar – or a lot familiar – there’s a good reason.
In spite of its lack of originality, The Conference consistently proves to be a case of execution over substance. And this isn’t to say it that there isn’t any substance. On the contrary, Eklund et al. weave some interesting character dynamics with a timely story about corporate greed. Specifically, Katia Winter’s ‘Lina’ makes for a compelling protagonist while also adding a bit of ambiguity around her backstory. And The Conference manages a few surprises around who survives and who doesn’t make it to the end. Most importantly, The Conference nails its mix of slasher violence dark humor. Maybe its jokes about corporate culture feel familiar. But they’re all still very much true and they’re still funny.
The Conference Nails Most of its Slasher Prerequisites
While the humor matters for this type of movie, for The Conference to really work needed to nail its slasher bits. Fortunately, slasher fans looks for a decent helping of inspired carnage should walk away happy. That is, Eklund understands the aesthetics and working pieces of a decent slasher outing. There are several stand-out death scenes that includes the employment of a boat motor in a hot tub to the tearing off of another character’s skull cap. Simply put, the carnage feels inspired, as it should, and whether there’s any CGI employed is hard to decipher – so the bloodletting looks inspired. Perhaps The Conference doesn’t need all of its 110 minutes – it runs a bit long in the tooth. Nevertheless, its always watchable and fun.
…Eklund emphasizes satire and the characterization of his corporate staff over the killer and their role in everything.
Where The Conference runs into problems is its killer. Anyone who’s a diehard slasher and knows that the killer – both their look and motive – often define the quality of the subgenre. In this regard, Eklund emphasizes satire and the characterization of his corporate staff over the killer and their role in everything. Neither the killer’s design nor their character have much of an impact. What’s put on screen in terms of the killer’s aesthetics – specifically, their mask – feels like it’s treading on very familiar ground. In addition, no one watching this movie is likely to be surprised by the final act reveal. In fact, The Conference’s big killer reveal feels like an afterthought. Throughout the dark comedy slasher, Adam Lundgren’s ‘Jonas’ feels like and largely fulfils the role as the primary villain.
The Conference Isn’t Particularly Original, But It’s Fun
Don’t expect anything all the fresh and innovative here. Even the satire of corporate culture has been done several times over in horror. And at an hour and forty minutes, The Conference does a good imitate of a lot workplace meetings – overstays its welcome. In spite of these limitation, however, The Conference remains a fun Swedish mix of horror and comedy. Eklunk successfully mixes humor, slasher movie violence, and an engaging but somewhat conventional story into a slick, entertaining package. If you’re a fan of dark humor, gory spectacles, and don’t mind a familiar narrative backdrop, then The Conference is worth checking out. At the very least, it’s nice to see Netflix at least trying a bit this October.