“The Conference” is a Swedish production that injects slasher elements into a corporate office setting, a concept not entirely groundbreaking. However, director Patrik Eklund brings a blend of brutality and humor to the table, making it a sufficiently bloody treat for horror enthusiasts. While the film isn’t a satire, it takes a straightforward approach to lampooning office politics, toying with the dynamics of a group of employees on a team-building trip who unexpectedly find themselves immersed in a world of ultraviolence at a campsite. With a masked killer on the prowl and a group of characters oblivious to the danger around them, “The Conference” proves to be an entertaining watch. It’s bolstered by committed performances, brisk editing, and Eklund’s evident passion for the genre, handling the B-movie affair with a penchant for gore and suspenseful hunt sequences.
The story unfolds in the town of Kolarangen, where a land development company is gearing up to commence construction on a shopping mall project. For leader Jonas (Adam Lundgren), this venture carries the promise of career advancement and potential integration with a larger organization, making it a point of pride. In an effort to turn this momentous occasion into a team-building excursion, manager Ingela (Maria Sid) has booked a holiday village for her employees, organizing a weekend full of activities for the team, including members Eva (Eva Melander), Kaj (Christoffer Nordenrot), Torbjorn (Claes Hartelius), and Nadja (Bahar Pars). Lina (Katia Winter) is part of the team, just returning from sick leave and harboring uncertainty about her role as the Kolarangen project unfolds. Jenny (Lola Zackow) serves as the property manager, striving to maintain order for the guests. However, the guests, searching for a more luxurious experience, struggle to unite as suspicions of wrongdoing begin to circulate. Adding to the pressure is the presence of a masked killer, who is determined to murder the visitors and possesses both knowledge of the area and an array of tools to achieve their sinister goal.
The Kolarangen mall project represents an extension of a planned community, selling paradise to those seeking an escape from crime, offering a suburban oasis that now includes a shopping center. The screenplay delves into the intricacies of the situation, with Ingela’s rehearsed enthusiasm met with skepticism from several team members, particularly Nadja, who raises questions about the land acquisition deal. What was once farmland is transforming into a mall, triggering concerns about the project, with Lina unwittingly entangled in the issue through a document signature she doesn’t remember providing. “The Conference” maintains a business element to balance the story, establishing the group dynamics and individual concerns as these individuals converge on a campsite ill-prepared to accommodate them.
Horror eventually takes center stage in “The Conference,” with a relentless killer on the loose, their identity concealed behind a formidable mascot mask. The murderer’s brutality is evident as they employ an assortment of tools and outdoor equipment to dispatch their victims. Eklund embraces the gore, satisfying fans of the genre with gruesome scenes and suspenseful stalking sequences. The film progresses from brutality to dark humor, but Eklund preserves a consistent tone, reserving the broader comedy for the reveal of a coveted gold groundbreaking ceremony shovel, an object of desire for Jonas and Ingela.
“The Conference” differentiates itself from a film like “Office Space,” focusing more on interpersonal tensions and workplace annoyances. It primarily revolves around character conflicts before delving into investigative work, following Lina’s quest to uncover the origins of the mall project. This adds a layer of intrigue before returning to the blood-soaked affairs. The film benefits significantly from its talented cast, who skillfully portray quirky characters and concerns, rendering the ensemble’s fate more engaging. They also adeptly handle the humor in the script, resulting in entertainingly contemptuous interactions as the weekend unfolds. “The Conference” possesses moments of genre strength, particularly when traps are introduced, complicating the characters’ escape plans. It effectively delivers the essentials of slasher entertainment, with Eklund striking a balance between on-screen chaos and excessive gimmickry.