Movie Review: “Conspiracy Theory” (previously titled “Lake on Fire”) a satirical horror hybrid by Jake Myers

Lake on Fire movie poster

Used with permission by Team Octagon

The crew of an Ancient Aliens-style documentary series descend upon Las Vegas, Nevada for what is surely their most difficult to take seriously shoot in Chicago native Jake Myers’s micro-budget indie Conspiracy Theory, whose setup incorporates hyper-dramatic television show clips into its found footage format, making it stand out from others in the typically murky, blue/green-tinted sub-genre. Shot on the fly, this satirical-horror hybrid leans toward the former, cozying up to its small cast of jobbing crew members making the most of their in-between time during neon lit nights and sun-drenched days.

The opening scenes border on straight parody as Ben Kobold’s ridiculous, spray-tanned Björn, host of Alien Engineers, proves his incompetence in a number of interviews, twisting the words of subjects who by turns stand their ground or cave in to his predetermined view, agreeing that, yes, maybe, it’s possible that aliens are responsible for the Hoover Dam. By night the crew wind down to reruns of their own show or other shows with similarly doofy concepts, and the fact is hammered home that they’re fully aware they’re pumping out fluff, and that they get their kicks by undermining the show’s seriousness while guided by the sturdy hand of their line producer, Jamie (Jamie Bragg).

Things take a turn for the weird when they travel to a remote shore on Lake Mead to visit a squatting conspiracy theorist, and they find themselves under watch by sinister lake security guards who may not be what they claim. Strange encounters – of the human kind anyway – are a part of the job, however, so as leery as the crew may be, they dismiss the mounting oddness until it’s too late and they’re face to face with truly unbelievable terror.

Ben Kobold in Lake on Fire

Used with permission by Team Octagon

Myers’s strange brew of self-aware hack journalism, road movie, and paranoid horror blends together remarkably well. He directs for a malleable tone, letting each flavor pop without dulling the edge off the others. The first half’s Vegas incursion is a giddy affair spiked with rousing interludes set to Lazerhawk’s pulsing electronica, and the Lake Mead sequences are shot for maximum desolation, the lake’s shockingly low water levels adding a good measure of eeriness to what already feels like a one-way journey. If there’s anything that’s disappointing, it’s that for as much care is taken building up to a fatefully horrific climax, the resulting fallout goes by too fast, leaving us with more unanswered questions than we know what to do with. Myers knows it, of course, and ultimately incorporates it into the joke, teasing us in classic bad television-baiting style with the answers next time we tune in.

It’s fun to watch the cast riding the highs and lows of their road trip, with Jennifer Mills making a big impression as the irrepressible Britney, whose antics ground the eccentric Björn and provide a focal point for the crew’s solidarity. In fact, the scariest moment of this sci-fi horror satire may just be when Britney and Björn struggle to recall a rap they came up with, rehearsing its few lyrics long enough to burn the obscene earworm into your subconscious for any number of inappropriate occasions to come.

Myers and company clearly have a ball playing all sides of the joke, and succeed tremendously with material like Björn’s stage presence and interview style. Conspiracy Theory is a found footage movie that’s fully aware of the pitfalls of the genre, and its tongue-in-cheek approach flouts any of the bugbears one might bring to the table when watching one. Paired with the charm of its committed cast, Conspiracy Theory is more real and knowing than most, grabbing and holding your attention by the grace of its characters alone, with nary an alien in sight. But really, they’re there.

A copy of Conspiracy Theory was provided by Team Octagon to Inside the Blue Paint for review

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