The Conference review: Netflix’s Swedish slasher revels in bloody hilarious mayhem

The Conference. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023
The Conference. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023 /

Modern-day slashers have to get creative with their kills after 20+ films featuring characters like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers cutting people up with just about every weapon and utensil you can think of, and that’s not even getting into the insanity Freddy Krueger cooks up in his movies.

Netflix’s Swedish horror-comedy film The Conference based on Mats Strandberg’s novel features a masked killer who isn’t afraid to mix things up, constantly shifting strategy to use whatever’s on hand to murder his victims—a group of public sector employees who believe they’re at a team-building retreat professional development training in celebration of breaking ground on a new shopping mall in Kolarängen.

The Conference isn’t going to rattle anyone who regularly watches gory movies, but there were a couple of surprisingly cringe-worthy scenes, one involving homemade stitches and another I won’t spoil. Many of the kills utilize gory discretion shots, so you might not see the boulder crushing the skull, but you’ll see enough to get the gist. It doesn’t take long for the kills to start, and once they really kick into gear, The Conference is basically a non-stop slaughterfest.

On the gore-o-meter, it’s not nearly as graphic as something like, say, Saw, but it’ll make you wince a few times, maybe more, depending on your level of tolerance for that sort of thing. Those who find themselves too scared to watch horror movies will appreciate The Conference‘s refreshingly dark comedic tone. It’s not as interested in scaring you as much as ensuring you’re enjoying yourself at least half as much as the ax (and knife and saw and sickle) murderer is.

The Conference is basically a non-stop slaughterfest.

Almost every kill is punctuated by a joke of some kind, whether by the dialogue, a perfectly-timed cutaway, or something else unexpected. Kudos to director Patrik Eklund and editor Robert Krant because I couldn’t get enough of the way this film utilizes its transitions, often making the camera itself an active participant in the joke.

The entire cast has great comedic timing, and though we don’t spend much time getting to know these people. There are a few who stand out, Lina (Katia Winter), the employee who’s just returned after taking a prolonged sick leave with misgivings about this company’s morals; the duplicitous and arrogant Jonas (Adam Lundgren); and the flat-out badass Nadja (Bahar Pars), who repeatedly proves she is hardcore final girl material.

As far as the actual story goes, it’s minimal. Someone wants revenge on this company and it all ties back to the shopping mall. Mix in allegations of corruption among the group to facilitate some infighting and then watch the chaos unfold. That’s really all you need to know, though the script certainly has fun dunking on workplace politics and capitalism.

It’s that commentary that keeps this film feeling fresh. Though I will say I kind of wanted the script to be a little meaner and the runtime a bit tighter, as it did start to drag, but overall I found The Conference to be a perfectly fine slasher and a cut above many recent Netflix films. Eklund has crafted a very confidently made slasher. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, in the absolute best way.

Next. Who is the killer in The Conference? (spoilers). dark