Fantastic Fest 2012: 'The Conspiracy' is Terrifying on Multiple Levels
by Jeremy Kirk
September 24, 2012
Conspiracy and paranoia go hand in hand. If "they" are powerful enough to control everything, "they" are powerful enough to control you. A shadowy government, one that secretly controls every historical events, is popular among conspiracy theorists, because it's just as frightening as it is unprovable. Writer/director Christopher MacBride takes this into account for The Conspiracy, a mockumentary about filmmakers uncovering answers to the secret government society mystery. Terrifying on many, many levels, it's a finely crafted film/documentary about seeking answers, and the paranoia that comes when you get them.
Actors Aaron Poole and James Gilbert play the two documentary filmmakers who turn their cameras on Terrance, a conspiracy theorist who believes every major event in the United States' history has been choreographed by a secret society, one whose ultimate goal is a New World Order. At first, Terrance's claims fall on cynical ears, the two friends questioning and even mocking the man's "answers." But when Terrance claims he's being followed and then disappears, the validity of his theories sets the filmmakers, Aaron more so than James, on their own trek for answers. They find them. And as the two friends butt heads over what they should or shouldn't do, how far they should or shouldn't go to get to the truth, they and we discover that some questions about the world should just remain hidden.
MacBride's feature film debut is sparked with creativity and packed with an abundance of real-world events to back up the claims made in its narrative. Terrance is a classic conspiracy nut, finding connections and patterns in dates of the greatest turning points in American history (i.e. the sinking of the Lusitania, or the 9/11 attacks). Other theorists are shown early in the film, and though they all claim there's a secret government controlling the country, no one agrees on who that government is. The first leg of the film plays documentary style complete with talking head interviews and stock footage, all edited together for a visual experience that keeps the pace of the film always moving.
Once Terrance disappears and the focus turns on the filmmakers themselves, the tension grips even tighter with the paranoia of a secret government mixing incredibly well with the drama of two friends who have differing opinions about them. Aaron becomes an obsessed believer, wanting nothing more than to find the patterns, answer the questions, and reveal the secret society and their evil actions to the public. James, a husband and father, is more than happy to let sleeping dogs lie, and MacBride's remarkable way of making both arguments reasonable keeps you invested long after the events of the film take a turn for the scarier.
The Conspiracy has a seemingly effortless way of latching onto your brain, forcing you to play it around in your head for days after seeing it. MacBride lays the tension on extremely thick, always keeping it grounded in a real-world setting but never allowing for a sense of comfort. As Aaron and James find more and more answers and ultimately make their way to where they think the society meets, the viewer is torn between their two opinions. We want them to find the answers, but we also know if you fly too close to the Sun you're going to get burnt. It's the question "Do you really want to know what's going on?" that keeps us engaged in the characters' actions long after we ourselves would have yielded.
The Conspiracy is a stellar mockumentary that burns with its revelations, the growing terror becoming more and more relentless with each passing minute. Filmmaker Christopher MacBride has made a truly terrifying film about puppets and their puppet masters. Sometimes you shouldn't mess with finding out who's pulling those strings, because they may just end up getting cut.
Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 9 out of 10