There’s Some Intriguing Theory Behind “The Conspiracy”

Posted: August 6, 2014 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Poster_for_The_Conspiracy_(2012_Film)

Just when you think “found footage” horrors have shot their wad, along come the Canadians to prove us all wrong — that’s right, friends, for the second time in as many days we’re headed north of the border to check out an indie horror that’s more or less flown below the radar, but that is well worth your time to see.

Apart from some festival circuit play and a fairly limited theatrical release in its country of origin, writer/director Christopher MacBride’s 2012 offering The Conspiracy didn’t seem to create too much of a stir, but hopefully the fact that it’s now available on Netflix instant streaming (as well as on DVD and Blu-ray, but given that’s not how I saw it no technical specs relating to these versions will be included in this review) will change that, because while this Ontario-based production certainly has its flaws, it’s by and large a competently-executed, reasonably suspenseful little piece of business that — stop me if you’ve heard this one before — plenty of comparatively-more-expensive Hollywood efforts could learn a thing or two from.

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The premise here sounds a bit hackneyed, sure, but things actually play out pretty nicely : crackpot “conspiracy theorist” Ron (played by Ron Kennell) is the subject of a documentary-in-progress by film-making buddies Aaron (played by Aaron Poole) and Jim (played by — are we noticing a pattern here? — James Gilbert), and while ol’ Ron seems, at first glance, to fit every negative stereotype that gets layered upon his ilk — he’s older, unkempt, unwashed, obsessive to a fault, and has a dingy old apartment filled with newspaper clippings — it turns out that he’s actually quite likely onto something, because one day he just up and disappears. The hovel he’s been living has been ransacked, his “flow chart” diagramming the hidden pattern of world domination by unseen rulers is in tatters, and he’s straight-up nowhere to be found. Gone. Poof. Scarpered.

Smelling a rat — or, more than likely, several  rats — our intrepid young heroes quickly “re-purpose” the footage they’re assembling into a “Where’s Ron?” piece of amateur investigative journalism and quickly find themselves spiraling inexorably downward into a secret society known as the Tarsus Club that, whaddaya know, really does run the whole fucking world from behind the scenes.

Okay, fair enough, there’s nothing here that isn’t cribbed more or less fairly directly from dozens, if not hundreds, of different conspiracy-themed websites, and the Tarsus Club is a fairly obvious stand-in for the Bohemian Grove — errrmmm — “social club” (and a lot of the “mockumentary” footage here bears more than a passing resemblance to the actual clandestine footage shot in the Grove itself by Alex Jones some years ago), but it works — even if some of the twists and turns that result in our protagonists finding themselves ensconced within the group’s membership seem a little bit overly convenient at first glance.

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The most interesting wrinkle in the story — spoiler alert — comes with the revelation that the folks in Tarsus are a direct continuation of the ancient cult of Mithras, a Roman bull-slaying deity, and while Mithraism was actually known for being surprisingly non-dogmatic as far as religions go, MacBride does seem to have the basics of many aspects of its ritual fairly well-researched, even if he by and large blows off the obvious parallels the now-apparently-defunct sect had with a pesky little cult that came along several years later known as Christianity (Mithras was born on December 25th to a virgin, rose from the dead after three days, and both his story and the story of Jesus have ingredients obviously derived from good old-fashioned sun worship). So points to him for at least partially laying out the precepts and fundamentals of a fascinating faith that’s fallen by the wayside.

Fair warning should also be given, at this point, that many of the aforementioned plot contrivances that seem pretty goddamn convenient actually prove to be more than a little bit too convenient, so expect a nice amount of payoff/payback (depending on who you’re rooting for) come the film’s end. You won’t be shocked out of your socks or anything, but a semi-audible “oh yesssssssssssss” or “shit, I told’ja so” may find itself sneaking out of your mouth before all is said and done.

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So hey — let’s not put a fork in the “handheld horror” genre quite as quickly as we might find ourselves tempted to. There may not be an actual conspiracy to keep it going, but The Conspiracy shows there’s a surprising amount of hunt left in the old dog yet.

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