Directed by Chris MacBride
Mockumentaries, such as those in the vein of The Last Exorcism, Lake Mungo, and the heretofore unreleased The Poughkeepsie Tapes, are an untapped goldmine of potential in the world of contemporary horror. Capable of utilizing a variety of aspects – video footage, photograph, and the always controversial found footage – without forcing them upon the viewer in such heaping doses that they overstay their welcome, the mockumentary lends itself to horror on a more real scale. Seemingly real people in real situations are a far more terrifying prospect than ghosts or monsters, and this is one of the reasons The Conspiracy, written and directed by Chris MacBride, succeeds.
Part faux-doc and part found footage, The Conspiracy follows Aaron and Jim, two documentarians doing research into a man named Terrance who is your typical street corner kook prone to shouting into a bullhorn about conspiracies and covering the walls of his home in newspaper articles. After gaining some insight into his mind through interviews and discussions with other conspiracy theorists, they discover that Terrance has disappeared, leaving his apartment behind in a state of disarray. Not one to give up, Aaron takes it upon himself to continue his work and ultimately uncovers a sinister secret society.
People like Terrance and their bizarre conspiracy theories are often treated with hostility, grounded in an irrational world that does little more than elicit a shake of the head and a dismissive wave of the hand. The central conceit of the film, however, is that these theories are grounded in a reality most people refuse to see, and MacBride manages to tie this all together in a fictional narrative that is grounded wholly in reality.
Even when the film abandons the documentary approach in favor of found footage, the transition is so perfect and so appropriate within the context of the duo’s mission, that it provides an unexpected dose of adrenaline and suspense. Up until this point in the film, the suspense is seen primarily in a sense of lingering dread that creeps through your brain throughout. However, while the straight horror aspect is indeed frightening, and utilizes the found footage approach in a way that is logical, appropriate, and organic, the real horror lies in the reality of the film and its subject matter.
Do secret societies exist? Definitely. Are they truly sinister organizations that seek to create a New World Order? Maybe. We’ll never know. The Conspiracy manages to raise these questions in a way that is incredibly real, yet still firmly grounded in horror. It’s a perfect balance of fact and fiction, woven together without sacrificing suspense in favor of sensationalism.
The Conspiracy is one of the most original, creative, and genuinely frightening horror movies in recent memory. Like the exceptional The Tunnel before it, The Conspiracy is indicative of a sub-genre that is woefully ignored, yet representative of what horror should always strive to be: real.
5 out of 5