The Conference (2023): A Non-Spoiler Review

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Poster for The Conference (2023) of a smiling mask with title in red.

🇸🇪 THE CONFERENCE 🇸🇪

The new Swedish feature comedy slasher (horror) film The Conference (2023) is available on Netflix internationally. 1 hour 40 minutes in length and rated 18 U.K. In Swedish with subtitles.

Premise:

“A team-building conference for municipal employees turns into a nightmare when accusations of corruption begin to circulate and plague the work environment. At the same time, a mysterious figure begins murdering the participants.” IMDb

Cast:

Katia Winter (The Wave, Hamilton, Off Track, The Year I Started Masturbating, Dexter, The Boys) as Lina
Eva Melander (Border, The Unlikely Murderer, Snow Angels, Pleasure, White Wall, Rebecka Martinsson: Arctic Murders, Jordskott, Modus) as Eva
Adam Lundgren (Clark, Max Anger – With One Eye Open, The Restaurant, Chernobyl, Stockholm Requiem, Blue Eyes) as Jonas
Lola Zackow (Snow Angels, Maria Wern) as Jenny
Bahar Pars (A Man Called Ove, Gåsmamman, The Year I Started Masturbating, Operation Ragnarok) as Nadja
Cecilia Nilsson (Snow Angels, The Sandhamn Murders, Spring Tide, Modus, Maria Wern, Wallander) as Anette
Jimmy Lindström (Hamilton, The Unlikely Murderer, Agatha Christie’s Hjerson, Snow Angels, Maria Wern, Roslund & Hellström: Box 21, The Simple Heist, Blue Eyes) as Karl
Christoffer Nordenrot (Clark, Roslund & Hellström: Box 21, The Unthinkable, Fallet, A Man Called Ove, Blue Eyes) as Kaj
Amed Bozan (Caliphate) as Amir
Maria Sid (All the Sins, Off Track, Before We Die, Stockholm Requiem) as Ingela

Crew:

Novel: Mats Strandberg
Writers: Patrik Eklund, Mats Strandberg
Director: Patrik Eklund
Composer: Andreas Tengblad
Cinematographer: Simon Rudholm
Editor: Robert Krantz

Note:

Mats Strandberg is one of Scandinavia’s most successful horror writers. Strandberg is also an executive producer of the film.

Review:

As I’ve mentioned before I’m a fan of horror and although slasher horror isn’t my preferred sub-genre I’ve no issue with violence in film in general. I also love a film that can make me laugh. Dead Snow, by way of example, was a film I thoroughly enjoyed even though it’s well outside of the plausible. So, bearing in mind all these factors I was fully invested in watching The Conference.

Let’s go on a works’ team building conference to some cabins in the woods. What could possibly go wrong?

On several levels, The Conference has many positives. Firstly, it did make me laugh. Not, perhaps, as much as it could have but there are certainly a fair few laugh-out-loud moments. One of these was a death involving an axe. The way this film is edited is excellent. I appreciated the original score and use of music in this film as well, it really added to both atmosphere and tension.

All the performances are good in this with Adam Lundgren outstanding as the loathsome Jonas. Some of the characters like the aforementioned Jonas had depth but I would have liked to have seen more depth in others. My reasoning is that then I would have cared more about what happened to them. I did care about Amir because we saw more of his character. I supposed that it’s not a requirement in a slasher horror to have much character depth but the best horrors I’ve watched have precisely this.

That jump scares aren’t overused in The Conference is a plus point and some scenes had great threat and tension. Often these seemed to be resolved a little too quickly without a break, pause, “it’s okay” moment followed by it all ratching right up again. The close-quarters handheld close-up camerawork worked well when it was used. Perhaps more of this from the pursued’s point of view would have been even more effective.

It’s a difficult thing with slasher movies to find inventive ways for people to die and often that’s not the point. The hot tub death was a satisfyingly bloody one though — plus the victim kind of deserves it.

There are, inevitably, going to be comparisons made with the British horror film Severance with the scenario. In this case, maybe a greater amount of mutual suspicion and conflict between the characters would have been beneficial. Not knowing who the assailant (or assailants) is can be very effective.

Overall The Conference is a well-made, quite funny, reasonably bloody slasher horror movie. While it doesn’t break new ground it’s worth a watch. A big positive for me is the music score by Andreas Tengblad which is extremely good along with the strong visuals.

Trailer:

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