I came to this film hoping for a good tension filled downwards spiral of events that plunge our unwary characters into a nightmare of shaky footage and scares. I was disappointed, for many reasons.
Conspiracy Theory (Or Lake on Fire, which is a more gripping title that is pretty undeserving) is one of the lowest Alien/UFO/Government Conspiracy themed FF/POV films I’ve watched out of the many there are within this medium, and I’ve watched a number.
It starts with promise, beginning with a disturbed phone call from the characters we are yet to meet, about events yet to transpire. Foreshadowing the fun yet to be had. The tone is roughly set, and an opening montage of the beautiful Nevada landscape set to music from Synthwave composer Lazerhawk’s album aptly titled “Visitors”, is a decent way to set the ball rolling. But this ends roughly 2 minutes in. And from there is begins to show its true colours.
We are introduced to our characters and their situation/motivation. Now knowing that the FF genre is littered with many examples of hollow characters and motivations for their plots (they can’t all be Oscar winners), I had no high expectations. But I still expected even a small level of effort on their part to provide us with decent company for us to share on their story. Not even.
Bjorn is the leader and host of a rather small scale an obnoxious mockumentary revolving around – you guessed it – Aliens and UFOs, called “Alien Engineers”. More specifically Alien intervention in our day to day lives. But the show’s content clearly has no intention other than to bother strangers and force words in their mouth. At this stage we would draw parallels to the infamous Ancient Aliens program, which our protagonist’s show clearly parodies. For me, this marks perhaps their biggest idea they’ve had which holds potential, but completely misses. The premise is ripe for interesting characters to share their own points towards the phenomena, preferably against its authenticity, and outright get slapped in the face when it comes to chase them down at the films climax. This is not so.
Over a span of roughly an hour (big jump, I know), our characters travel between different subjects to be interviewed for their show, asking them outright narrow minded questions and leaving them little room to share their honest opinions, not that I expected it of course. It would be entertaining if the intended comedy was actually funny, but it lacks any form of punchline or point. For the longest time I wasn’t sure if Bjorn was this narrow minded about “Aliens being everywhere!” or if he was putting it on. I discovered which it was far too late into the film, which should have been strongly defined earlier on.
In-between these interviews, we are served with transitions of the characters either wasting time in their hotel rooms, wandering through the many casinos of Las Vegas and nearly getting kicked out (I suspect they were legitimately being followed by security), planning their next interviews, or supplying us with truly unnecessary lengths of crude banter that serves little point.
Now I know that as a staple of the FF film medium, home footage and clips is often full of moments that might not be valued to us, but are an example and window into the lives and daily interactions of characters in their world. Through these little moments we should experience who they really are, they are exposing themselves to scrutiny by the audience, for better or worse, and the actions they make no matter how big or small are there for us to judge their character and their place within the narrative. Now the trick here, like within any film, is to make our unlikeable and likeable characters justified in who they are, and flesh them out. Problem is, even in their most intimate moments on this film, there is little admirable or even relatable qualities to their characters. It’s not even the more intimate moments that are the most detrimental, it’s their casual dialogue which is also damaging to the film’s dignity. But with how the story unfolds, or lack thereof, their efforts aren’t particularly wasted.
Arriving at their last interview subject, our fearless band of truth-seekers hire a boat to take them out onto a lake said to be ripe with Alien activity beneath its watery surface. Oooh, eerie. With their nighttime antics interrupted by security officers, they are informed that Elsa, their next subject, is too distant for them and that the officers will personally take them there… for some reason. We can already tell at this stage that our character’s feeble and stale efforts for breaking the conspiracy wide open are of the upmost interest to the authorities. Elsa only serves to supply a late confirmation to our predictions that something otherworldly will take place on the lake. And we aren’t disappointed… maybe. Our first sign that Aliens are setting their eyes on our protagonists is the bizarre arrangement of objects within their boat. A gesture that could have easily been explained away by teens (which they did) and fails to supply us with any tension. We are then treated to a much needed time-lapse of the cleanup with soundtrack again provided courtesy of Lazerhawk.
One of the characters is badly hurt by an Alien artifact by the water’s edge and is taken inside. Here things finally begin to pick up at roughly the 1 hour mark. The boat is bathed in blazing white light, and Bjorn is finally abducted and taken away from us. Long overdue. Our injured friend is then assaulted by a spandex wearing Grey Alien. Now this is where any hope of even a small dose of entertainment was lost for me. Some FF films can go 90% of their duration serving a dull plot only to have it redeemed by a highly entertaining end. Needless to say this was not one of them. I think this is where I truly understood what this film was, and what it was trying to be.
Ironically, at the beginning of the movie, the scared phone call called into question who the “creepy in the Alien suit” was. Well that’s exactly what it looked like, and they didn’t do much to hide this fact either. Perhaps it’s a blessing that the Alien only had limited screen time.
The characters spend the remainder of their film longing for their beloved Bjorn… only to eventually find him and begin their trip back home. Oh yeah, and the security guards stop only to return their cameras, no doubt wiped clean of all their evidence. A follow on video from yet another phoney UFO TV show informs us that the team of Alien Engineers had been subjects to 3 levels of Close Encounters. Which by this point, we already grasped. This is where the film ends.
The credits roll, accompanied by a questionable choice of music. Instead of the overused Lazerhawk jams, we are given the full vulgar song that was referenced between Bjorn and his partner. Just what I thought was missing.
This really marks the end of my review, if it can be seen as such. So I will leave with my final overall thoughts.
If this film ever had the intention of being a form of entertainment, it lost it long ago. After watching this movie, I see it more as a slapdash effort made by a group of travelling friends who wanted to go on a road trip through Nevada and improvise a film along the way, just for kicks. I doubt they cared for telling a story in any fashion. Problem is I found this out far too late, where other viewers would likely have tuned into this revelation early on and saved themselves the time, making my lengthy review redundant.
Overall, this is not a film I would revisit, or want to remember. It did seem to have ideas in there that might have been better served were they used by filmmakers who actually cared. But alas that’s not the case. In my eyes, not worth a watch. However, they were at least committed enough to edit and release the film, so there’s that. Plenty of other great FF films out there where effort was actually made, Alien related or otherwise. Unless someone is looking to waste their time, this could be the film for you.
That’s where I’ll leave it.