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The Conference

Netflix has a slasher flick for you this "Friday the 13th" that may not directly feature Jason Voorhees but was clearly inspired by the legend of the boy in the hockey mask. Patrick Eklund’s “The Conference” kind of unfolds like “Triangle of Sadness” meets “I Know What You Did Last Summer” as a group of (mostly) greedy capitalists reap what they sow at a work conference before the launch of a shopping mall that’s going to steal land from hard-working people before failing in spectacular ways. One of several clever things about Eklund’s film is that these monsters aren’t even very good at what they do. They’re fudging the books, lying about IKEA coming to the project, and growing more hateful of one another. What could go wrong at one of those corporate retreats with ziplines and trust exercises? More than they could have imagined.

Katia Winter (Nadia from “Dexter”) plays the most likable member of this crew of profit-driven lackeys, a woman named Lina, who has been away while the majority of the corporate malfeasance unfolded. So she’s startled to see the contracts don’t include compensation for the farmers whose land has been stolen from them and sets about trying to figure out who’s to blame while at a corporate retreat at what looks like an abandoned summer camp. She has a few allies—Eklund and co-writers Thomas Moldestad and Mats Strandberg are careful not to make all of the employees the same—but most of her colleagues follow the lead of the aggressively upbeat boss Ingela (Maria Sid), the kind of head of a department who believes she can motivate mostly through the sheer force of a creepy smile.

Eklund wastes little time getting to “the good stuff” as the film’s slasher works his way through the employees at the camp and the people who have come there to learn about the power of positive thinking. As they bicker and Lina tries to figure out what happened while she was on sick leave, a well-armed figure is in the woods driving his machete through people’s body parts. The camp mascot head that the killer dons here is both kinda goofy and terrifying at the same time, with its frozen visage and black eyes that make it look like a twisted member of the seven dwarves. Call this one Slashy.

Films have long explored the relative hollowness of corporate motivational sound bites, and this certainly isn’t the first to blend workplace comedy and horror—fans of “Severance” and “Mayhem” will note similarities to those two projects as well—but there’s an impressive economy to “The Conference” in how Eklund doesn’t waste time on speeches or slow burn his way to tension. He sets up his idiots in a trapped location and devises clever ways to pick them off one by one. The last few scenes really help the film land its blend of styles in that, without spoiling, they reveal how much these people don’t need a sociopath in the woods to be violent and destructive. 

On Netflix now.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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The Conference (2023)

98 minutes

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