Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 24 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Christopher MacBride
Written by: Christopher MacBride
Starring: Aaron Poole, James Gilbert, Alan Peterson & Julian Richings
In a swamp of low-grade found footage movies, there will always be special gems that stick out. Whether they involve a vampire documenting his transformation (AFFLICTED), children visiting their deranged grandparents (THE VISIT) or an eco-nightmare come to life (THE BAY), these movies will always rise above their mediocre competition. THE CONSPIRACY combines a mockumentary with a conspiracy thriller and then throws in a solid dose of found footage horror to boot. The idea is so simple that you’ll wonder why nobody ever bothered to tackle this subject matter in the found footage format before now. Though not immune to clichés and questionable character decisions, THE CONSPIRACY is a good, paranoid time.
Aaron and Jim are two documentary filmmakers. Their latest project is about Terrance, a local conspiracy nutjob who made waves in his YouTube rants. The pair begin their documentary with intentions of analyzing what kind of person believes in convoluted, far-fetched conspiracies. Their footage takes a more menacing turn when Terrance disappears. His apartment seems to have been ransacked, but there isn’t any evidence of foul play. While Jim wants to write off their potential documentary as a failure and move onto something else, Aaron begins digging through Terrance’s research and random newspaper articles. He discovers that Terrance was onto a supposedly sinister organization known as the Tarsus Club. As the documentary quickly turns into a full-on investigation into the Tarsus Club, Aaron and Jim find themselves in over the heads.
The first 45 minutes of THE CONSPIRACY provide interesting, if not far-fetched, set-up for what is to come. This is all given in a faux documentary style, complete with actual footage of world events and high-ranking government officials. Seeing as the script combines a number of actual conspiracy theories, it makes sense that some of the clips are unnerving (the claim that 9/11 was an inside job is thrown around constantly) and others delve into sillier, more stupid territory. The film begins as a paranoid thriller that will make you question whether or not there might be possible truth to the crazy claims being made. The filmmakers even went as far as creating a really suspicious Tarsus Club website used in the film. For a creepier experience, be sure to visit that site while the movie is playing. It makes the horror that much eerier. However, the momentum begins to run on fumes when the script introduces ideas like a super simple secret handshake (complete with an eye-rolling montage of world leaders shaking hands).
About halfway through, THE CONSPIRACY becomes an all-out found footage horror flick. This comes complete with a few very dumb character decisions. I know that the horror genre thrives on human error, but there’s a definite point where stupidity makes any possible sympathy for characters into something that’s damn near impossible. That being said, the last half of this film delivers in creepy, suspenseful pay-off. It’s not exactly hard to figure out how this all might end (especially seeing that this is a found footage horror flick), but I really loved some of the big reveals that come in the third act. The ending delivers a nice dose of paranoia and a pitch-black note to send the whole affair out on.
THE CONSPIRACY does have its share of clichés and stupid character decisions, while also dragging its feet in the set-up. On the positive, there a lot of good ideas and palpable suspense. The finale makes it all worth watching. As far as performances go, Aaron Poole and James Gilbert serve as believable, stupid main characters, while Alan Peterson is utterly convincing as the briefly glimpsed Terrance. Peterson seems to be channeling a raving, homeless nutjob that the filmmaker probably dragged off the street and threw into this movie. Though it’s far from perfect, THE CONSPIRACY is a fun little conspiracy thriller and one of the more enjoyable found footage flicks to come out of the last five years.