Fantastic Fest 2012 Review: THE CONSPIRACY Makes You Paranoid, But Don't Tell Anybody

Peter Martin, Managing Editor


With absolute conviction and unwavering intelligence, The Conspiracy unpacks complex theories and raises disturbing questions that are not easily dismissed.

What distinguishes the faux-documentary framework from any number of "mock docs" is that writer/director Christopher MacBride doesn't pretend that his film has been made by clueless amateurs. His approach is dead-on accurate, pulling the viewer inexorably into a world of paranoid conspiracies

Aaron and Jim, two young Canadian filmmakers, decide to make a documentary about conspiracy theorists, and land a peach of a subject for their first interview. Crying out to passerbys with a bullhorn -- "Slaves!" -- and living in a trash-strewn apartment with an entire wall covered in newspaping clippings and nearly-unintelligible scribblings, Terrance clearly fits the profile of a member of the lunatic fringe. Aaron and Jim are eager to meet with him again, but Terrance suddenly disappears, with precious few clues as to where he might have gone.

As the weeks pass, Aaron is nagged by the feeling that Terrance was onto something quite real and possibly dangerous, something that might explain his disappearance. When Terrance's landlord begins emptying his apartment, Aaron and Jim acquire as much "evidence" as they can in garbage bags filled with random papers and newspaper clippings; Aaron takes everything home and starts to piece together the puzzle of Terrance's theory.

Aaron's growing obsession is contrasted with the more rational Jim, who has a wife and child and a disinclination to go poking around in other people's garbage. What at first seemed incredibly far-fetched -- Terrance's idea that a cabal of rich, powerful men control the world -- gradually enters the realm of the possible.

As with any good documentary, faux or otherwise, The Conspiracy unfolds in an increasingly compelling manner, drawing together its "plot" threads tightly and transforming what could be straightforward feature material into a personal, unexpectedly suspenseful narrative. Aaron is a sympathetic protagonist: likable and reasonable, he's not the type to go chasing after shadows, so his belief that Terrance's theory has substance goes a long way towards making the case.

Writer/director Christopher MacBride demonstrates a clear understanding of the documentary format. After all, if something is presented as true, without any mugging or winking at the camera, the power of the unblinking eye can fool the viewer (at least this one) into thinking that what is on screen is true, no matter the likelihood that it's a lie, or at least a deceptive way of presenting falsehoods as reality, or, perhaps, in the end, merely a movie, not an expose of secretive information that could get you killed just for watching it.

The Conspiracy taps into deeply-hidden fears, even as your brain is telling you not to pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

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  • Shannon Shoffner

    Any idea when this will be available in the US?

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