The Belko Experiment. A Review
Have you ever let your mind wander at work? Has that wandering ever brought you to the idea that you may be able to eliminate most of the people in this office with just a stapler? a keyboard perhaps? Maybe you have gone the opposite way and thought that everyone in this office could take you out with no problem. Your mind starts searching it's mental model of the workplace for good places to hide and wait for help to come. The Belko Experiment hopes to permanently put this idea into the viewers minds and in some ways is successful. On the surface level The Belko Experiment is a solid "Monster in the House" horror/thriller, but digging a little deeper leaves you feeling like a toddler trying to dig to the center of the earth from their backyard sandbox, a bit disappointed and a little embarrassed that you expected any different.
The Belko Experiment is about a group of typical American office co-workers who are the subjects of a twisted experiment. They work for Belko Industries, a company whose business is kept pretty vague and is whos location is an office building in Bogota, Colombia. The site lies fairly far off the beaten path and on the day in question, security at the building has been amped up. Other than the extra armed security guards, the day starts pretty normally. We meet someone from pretty much every department in the building. There are office workers, building maintenance, a kitchen staff and a security guard all of whom we meet quickly and efficiently. As everyone gets settled into the day, an announcement comes over the loud speaker asking for the roughly 90 employees to choose 2 people to kill or it will be done for them. At first this is regarded as a joke, but when heavy metal shudders start covering up every window, door and escape route the employees start to become concerned. At first the employees think this is just a faulty security measure or maybe an elaborate practical joke. After not following the directions of the voice in the loudspeaker, random heads start exploding and then no one thinks this is a joke anymore. Further directions from the loudspeaker turn the mild mannered office workers into bloodthirsty animals and the carnage ensues.
If you have seen a trailer for The Belko Experiment you may have noticed it is written by "Guardians of the Galaxy" darling James Gunn. Before he took the deep dive into the Marvel Cinematic Universe Gunn was known as a horror guy. He wrote the 2004 Zach Snyder "Dawn of the Dead" remake and in my opinion his best non-Guardians work is a Horror/Comedy he wrote and directed called Slither (2006). Gunn was originally supposed to direct the movie as well, but his schedule became a bit full recently and he had to drop out. You can feel Gunn's influence in the movie, but I felt the script felt a bit unfinished and could have used some polish. We get our normal pantheon of weird ass James Gunn characters, that I will discuss later, but when you need the characters to hit that extra level, they never do. Motivations are established at break neck speed, without much to influence them and end up being tools to get the plot moving. This means that the movie moves pretty well, but the substance is missing, As I mentioned before, some of the characters are fairly unique, but some are too basic and when we get into the fray it can be difficult to keep track of whats going on.
The Belko Experiment is not an incredibly unique idea, it is reminiscent of movies like Battle Royale (2000) and Cabin in the Woods (2012) but Gunn and director Greg McLean do a pretty good job of not making The Belko Experiment shot for shot remakes of those movies. While Belko does not have the incredible death scenes that Battle Royale had or the creative wackiness of Cabin in the Woods, it has its own breed of violence that could give viewers something new to get freaked out by. It also helps that for a small budget horror movie, the cast is pretty great. John Gallagher Jr.(Short Term 12, 10 Cloverfield Ave) plays Mike Milch, who the viewer is sort of put into the shoes of, which is a good thing. Gallagher Jr. has an every man quality, which makes for a perfect canvas for the viewer to paint their experience on. We are treated to strong supporting performances from the likes of Adria Arjona, Tony Goldwyn and everyones favorite cantankerous doctor John C. McGinley. Sean Gunn kinda steals the scenes that he is in, but he is not in all that many which is probably better in the long run.
The Belko Experiment is not a genre changing horror movie, but it knows that. It hits as many buttons as it misses and sometimes that's all you can really hope for. The run time does not even make an hour and a half, but to be honest I don't think I could have taken much more than and hour and 29 minutes, another way Belko knows it's lane. Really my biggest issues come with the surface level characters and plot but to a lot of people this may mean nothing. The idea is interesting and pretty relatable almost anyone, really who has not thought about being locked in your workplace and forced to murder your co-workers. To anyone at BC Tire reading this just know I am already more prepared than you. You can't ask my previous co-workers, they also were less prepared. Anyways if you dig kinda campy single location horror/thriller bloodbath movies this is the one for you. For everyone else you may find things to like about The Belko Experiment like I did.