The Conspiracy (from writer/director Christopher MacBride) is so effective that some people think it tells a greater truth. It taps into the very real fear that the game of life is actually rigged. Other movies can be easily dismissed, you can avoid mythical creatures that want to eat you, or phantoms that want to scare you. But the idea that the rich and powerful are doing sinister things behind our back is not going away.
The Conspiracy uses just enough truth to sound credible, combining what we know about the Skull and Bones Society and the Bohemian Grove, among other things to create a very-grounded, chilling film. The Conspiracy is somehow able to make this idea work when, when I’ve seen lots of blockbusters fall on their face trying to do this sort of thing. And it creates momentum possibly better than any film on this list.
The Conspiracy is about two documentary filmmakers Aaron (Aaron Poole) and Jim (James Gilbert) who become fascinated with a local conspiracy theorist, Terrance G (a magnetic performance by Alan C. Peterson). Like any good kook, he has a trusty billboard where he connects events, and they dutifully catalog his ideas. The documentary is more of a character study than an expose though, or at least that’s what Jim claims.
At one point, Terrance G claims to be followed…and then he disappears completely. When his apartment is being cleared out, they start to get worried, and Aaron takes the research and starts looking into it. Despite their search, Terrance is never found.
At this point, Aaron is down the rabbit hole. He starts making his own links, and gets pulled further and further into paranoia. But there is enough truth there to make it compelling.
Once his house is broken into, he moves in with Jim and his family, who are about as happy as you would think to have a raving maniac on their couch. Also, Jim is much more pragmatic about everything. He doesn’t see how he can affect change, or why he should.
But just cause you’re crazy, doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Terrance had found a pattern, but he couldn’t make sense of it. Aaron does. Aaron finds the Tarsus Club, a covert organization and ancient secret society that seems to have a meeting right before something big happens socially.
Unbelievably, there is one article about them in Time Magazine, which seems counter intuitive for a secret organization. The writer’s name is Mark Tucker, and that’s all anyone knows about him. Eventually they find Tucker, whom they interview. He explains that he couldn’t publish the best parts, that the Tarsus Group has a ceremony where they sacrifice a bull, and that they are far older and more powerful than anyone knows.
They worship a god called Mithras, who died on December 25, and was resurrected 3 days later. Umm…. he was worshiped in caves around the world, and the symbolism of him hunting and killing a bull is paramount to their beliefs. In fact, the origin of the handshake, he claims, comes from Mithras. And this society wants a one world government.
Eventually, he contacts them and lets them know that he might be able to sneak them into a Tarsus Club meeting. They agree to attach a small camera to their lapel and infiltrate the ceremony.
It never occurs to them that they know nothing about Mark Tucker, or why this article was published, if this society is so powerful.
In a sequence that I can only describe as intense and riveting, they attend the Tarsus Club. Everything seems to be going well, but it all seems to be building up to something. This is case where we have no idea what’s going to happen, and it works magnificently, very few films are this engaging. Eventually, the two are separated. Jim is isolated and intimidated. As it turns out, they have his family and have brought them to mansion where the meeting is held.
Aaron thinks he is surreptitiously recording the ceremony, but after a bull’s head mask is placed on him, he realizes, to his horror, that it was all a setup, and he is the sacrifice, the fox in the middle of a fox hunt. He is hunted down and killed.
The end is chilling.
Jim claims that the Tarsus Club is above board, and has no idea what happened to Aaron. The Tarsus Club releases a series of very disciplined statements, and denies being part of any conspiracy. Things remain as they always have been.