Within its blend of horror and humor, ‘The Conference,’ a Swedish Netflix film, packs an entertaining story with easy mysteries and unnerving gore. Accompanying Lina and her coworkers, led by project leader Jonas, on their team-building retreat, the narrative glimpses into the team’s inherently dysfunctional dynamic before a killer turns the film into a slasher. Thus, the story straps audiences in for a thrilling journey through one wild night that remains thematically ripe with genre staples. As such, if the film has left you curious about its origins and possible connections to reality, here is what you need to know.
The Book Behind The Film
‘The Conference’ (Originally titled ‘Konferensen’) is not based on a true story. However, the film is an adaptation of the 2021 Swedish horror novel ‘Konferensen’ by Mats Strandberg. Strandberg is a columnist for Aftonbladet, a Stockholm-based Swedish tabloid newspaper. He started his career as an author in 2006 with his debut novel ‘Jaktsäsong,’ and has written numerous titles since.
When discussing his 2021 release ‘Konferensen,’ the author described his book as a story about a dysfunctional group of coworkers stuck in a secluded area with a crazy killer on the loose. “So it’s a bit, you know, Agatha Christie meets ‘Friday the 13th,’ or at least that was my goal,” he said. In a conversation with Magnus & the Arts, Strandberg spoke about how he mines for ideas, concluding that they tend to “pop up” from anywhere.
For Strandberg, the inspiration behind this story came from the innately weird situations that bad working relationships tend to pose. “It’s so frustrating, and also, it’s such a weird situation that you spend more than half of your awake time with these people you haven’t chosen for yourself,” the author said. “So that’s where I started to think about that.”
The film expands upon this same situation and throws in a hefty dose of comedy to bring something new and refreshing to the table. Although the film’s utilization of the same is a departure from the source material, which focuses more on the character’s interpersonal dramas, the storyline benefits from it in its own way.
Over the years, slasher comedy has become more prevalent in Hollywood with movies like ‘The Final Girls,’ ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies,’ and ‘Totally Killer.’ However, the Patrik Eklund directorial charts a different, newer path by setting its humorous slasher tale in a campground inhabited by coworkers, who are all well into adulthood. As such, the narrative delivers relatability within new parameters through the film’s exploration of workplace friendships, rivalries, and other dynamics.
Since this aspect of the film informs such a universal experience, viewers are bound to relate with a few characters and find reflections of their situations in the storylines. For instance, Jonas’ character remains an exaggerated but resonant depiction of passive-aggressive bad bosses chasing after their own success while neglecting their team members. Likewise, Ingela, the overbearing superior, and Amir, the awkward but close work friend, provide their own similarities to real-life experiences.
The film also touches upon the topic of corruption through its Kolarängen Mall plot line, which discusses the exploitation of the working class and the disconnect between citizens and the people in charge. While this facet of the plot ends up taking the backseat soon after the killer’s reveal, it strives to highlight an issue closely related to reality. Nevertheless, except for these trivial tidbits, ‘The Conference’ has no tangible connections to real life.
Ultimately, the film draws heavy inspiration from the eponymous novel, but the characters and events explored within the narrative remain fabricated, created to serve the story. As such, ‘The Conference,’ a work of fiction, can be credited to Strandberg for his novel, the film’s base inspiration, alongside director Eklund and his co-writer Thomas Moldestad, who wrote the screenplay. Through its premise of an extreme team-building exercise where coworkers are forced to work together for their survival, the film delivers an engrossing story confined to fiction.