Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for The Conference. Based on Mats Strandberg’s novel of the same name, Patrick Ecklund’s Swedish slasher horror The Conference on Netflix clearly takes inspiration from classic slasher films that depict the horrifying ordeals of a group of helpless people being trapped and hunted by a blood-thirsty murderer. But The Conference innovates in its own ways to add drama and chaos to its excitingly harsh experience. Firstly, unlike most slasher films, the film chooses to follow a group of individuals who differ on more things than they agree. On top of that, The Conference chooses to revolve its slasher plot around a group of municipal employees — not the most exciting of lead characters for a horror film. However, quite surprisingly, the jaded group of employees show a different kind of spirit when their survival instincts are challenged. After all, they’ve survived bureaucracy long enough to qualify for an official “conference.” It’s particularly the surprising ending of this Swedish slasher film that makes all the bloody mess worth enduring.
What Is ‘The Conference’ About?
The Conference centers around a group of municipal workers who arrive at the town of Kolärangen for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kolärangen mall, a shopping center that’s expected to open doors to a flurry of economic opportunities for the neighborhood. The group consists of the boss Ingela (Maria Sid), the Project Leader Jonas (Adam Lundgren), the returning employee Lina (Katia Winter), and the newbie Nadja. The others in the group include Amir (Amed Bozan), Eva (Eva Melander), Torbjörn (Claes Hartelius), Kaj (Christoffer Nordenrot), and Anette (Cecilia Nilsson). Clearly, not everybody in the group is as excited as the Project Leader Jonas, his best bud Kaj, and the boss Ingela. Before heading to their holiday resort, the group makes a pit stop at the site where the mall and a residential complex are expected to pop up. Ingela thanks Jonas for masterminding the entire project and directs her employees to call their excursion “Professional Development Training,” if anybody asks. In reality, the conference is just an excuse to enjoy a few days off on taxpayer’s money under the guise of “official business.”
Within a short span after their arrival in Kolärangen, a divisive commercial sparks a debate among the group, and the members of the team start exploring the finer details of the project. Lina, who has just been back from a sabbatical, shares her concern regarding Jonas’ decision to not pay the farmer, Pålsson, whose farm was demolished for acquiring land for the shopping center. Importantly, Lina does not remember signing the contract favoring this decision even though her signature appears on the contract. The group seems to be divided into two factions; one led by Jonas who appears to favor the shopping center, and the other led by Lina and Nadja who are against the idea of not compensating the farmer for his land. Even Jonas trying to entertain the group by wearing a creepy-looking charcoal burner mask does not seem to diffuse the tension.
The team is soon tasked with some team-building exercises by the resort employee Cleo (Marie Agerhäll) although Jonas even uses this opportunity to take a dig at Lina, prompting her to go look for Jonas’ laptop. Leaving her group behind, Lina breaks into Jonas’ room to find the evidence of Jonas’ misdoings. All the while, the group remains unaware that a deadly killer has started murdering the resort’s employees. In the meantime, Cleo also discovers that she has lost the package containing the mobile phones of all her guests. Jonas also gets furious about his charcoal burner mask going missing. In the evening, Lina shares her shocking discovery with Nadja and Amir. It turns out that Jonas took the help of Kaj to make a deal with the company Backman-Kroon and forged Lina’s signature for the contracts. In return for the deal, Jonas has found himself a high-paying job at the company.
When Lina confronts Jonas for faking the documents, he tries to bribe her with the offer of a great job at Backmann-Kroon. Showing Jonas the pen drive containing the data, Lina demands Jonas to call off the event the next day. Before a resolution could be found, terror strikes the group in the form of a man masked in the charcoal burner mask. From the group, Kaj becomes the first victim, followed by Ingela who’s hanged from a nearby flagpole for everyone to see. The onslaught of the killer causes the group to split up. The killer starts chasing Lina and Jonas whereas the others in the group find safety inside the hotel. Although Jonas gets seriously injured with his scalp cut open, he uses the situation to his benefit and gets his hand on the pen drive, containing evidence against him, from Line. With only Jonas’ scream heard later, it’s hinted that Jonas may be dead. Lina manages to escape, along with Amir, who comes looking for her, and reunites with the remaining group.
Who Is the Killer in ‘The Conference’?
The group initially thinks that the murderer is a former employee named Frans who was against the shopping center from the get-go. During one of the earlier conversations among the group, Ingela even talks about being attacked by Frans. However, when Annette comes face to face with the killer, and they take the mask off, she does not recognize the person. Tobrbjörn and Amir soon discover a piece of evidence that hints at the identity of the real killer — a newspaper clipping with a photograph of Pålsson’s son. Earlier, Amir had told Lina that Pålsson committed suicide soon after his land was robbed of him. Pålsson’s son clearly had a motive to lead the carnage against the group.
Amir then dies in a trap set up by the killer as he and Lina try to escape through a zipline while sacrificing himself to save Lina. Then Eva and Tobrbjörn find themselves the target of the masked murderer. After warding off the assailant briefly, Eva and Tobrbjörn prepare themselves for a lethal attack, although their initial plans fail when the killer surprises the two. Thankfully, before Eva and Tobrbjörn can be harmed, Nadja comes out of nowhere and decapitates the stranger using a golden shovel Jonas had brought for his mascot costume. Meanwhile, Lina gets her hands on her lost mobile phone and calls 911 for help. But before help can reach her, she is attacked by Jonas once again. Clearly, Jonas had survived despite the earlier indication that he was murdered. Jonas tries to kill Lina, prompting Lina to rip his scalp off and leaving Jonas to sleep with the fishes — literally.
Who Lives and Dies at the End of ‘The Conference’?
When Lina arrives at the resort, she’s questioned by the police about the chaotic state of events. Following her dead boss Ingela’s orders, Lina quotes everything to be part of “professional development training.” In the closing moments of The Conference, the camera focuses on a newspaper clipping that partially reveals the face of Pålsson’s son, partially hidden behind spilled blood. It turns out that Pålsson’s son had committed to not giving up without a fight — a promise he lived up to until his death. In the end, from the original group of nine employees who arrived at the resort, only Lina, Nadja, Eva, and Tobrbjörn survived the massacre. Unlike most slasher films, the killer ends up taking the final beating in The Conference despite having a possibly fair reason to kill, although it’s questionable whether everyone (who did die) deserved to die. The greatest twist, however, is not the death of the ruthless killer but rather the fashion in which the dysfunctional group of municipal employees come together against the odds to survive.
The Big Picture
- The Conference innovates the slasher genre by following a group of municipal employees who are trapped and hunted by a killer.
- Despite their differences, the jaded employees show a surprising unity and survival instinct when their lives are on the line.
- The shocking ending reveals the identity of the killer and showcases the unexpected resilience of the survivors.
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