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FF2012: 'The Conspiracy'

Who can you trust at Fantastic Fest?

By Richard Whittaker, 4:00PM, Mon. Sep. 24, 2012


You'll see what you want to see in 'The Conspiracy'

The genius of the true conspiracy theorist is that, no matter how thoroughly their pet paranoia is debunked, they can still say, "Ah-hah, but that's what THEY want you to believe." Mockumentary The Conspiracy dwells in that netherworld between proof and suspicion.

Aaron Poole and James Gilbert play Aaron and Jim, two documentarians who become fascinated by Terrance (Alan C. Peterson). He's the manic street preacher type, wandering the streets with boards covered with notes, string and paper cuttings. He looks like the standard issue soap box hero: But when he disappears, Aaron and Jim wonder: Was he right to be so scared?

The duo are drawn in to the paranoid web around the Taurus Club: A strange gathering of power brokers and wielders who may – or may not – be the modern incarnation of an ancient Mithraic cult(sssshhhhh don't say Bilderberg Group.) The plot sees links in numerology, dates, wild coincidences linked by whispers and lengths of string on a pinboard. It explores the lines between paranoia and investigation. More tellingly, it questions what is simple abuse of power, and where the real conspiracies begin. Unsurprisingly, one goes way deeper down the rabbit hole than the other, and it's up to the viewer to decide whether it's a dead end or a warren.

The Conspiracy's biggest success is that it's not afraid to dive deep into the real world of fiendish floridators and 9/11 truthers. It looks like the film makers raided Alex Jones' mailing list to bring in real Without debunking or endorsing their theories, it shows them as wide-eyed rather than wild-eyed. Who knows how they view the final product, but as the modern manic street preachers, they may be glad of any new soap box to stand on.

It peaks with a dual concealed camera third act that takes all its subversive themes and melds it into a seriously untrustworthy first person narrative. Reminiscent of the ride to the house in Catfish, it veers close to traditional horror territory (unlike Catfish, and in keeping with its air of mysticism, it's more The Wicker Man than Texas Chain Saw Massacre.) The camera may never lie, but what if it's being lied too? Anyone who has spent too long around Prisonplanet.com will have seen this kind of source material, of goofy rich people doing goofy things. But it's all in the eye of the beholder, whether this is the criminal machinations of the true power elites, or just a bunch of wealthy frat boy assholes who never left the pledge mentality.

The Conspiracy succeeds, not just because it succesfuly mimics the post-Michael Moore generation of directors who love to put themselves in front of the camera. It succeeds because it mimics the fever-dream paranoia of conspiracy documentarians.

Or maybe that's just what the Trilateral Commission wants you to think. Tricky bastards.

Fantastic Fest presents The Conspiracy, D: Christopher MacBride. Tuesday 25 September.

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