DIRECTOR: Greg McLean
WRITER: James Gunn
John Gallagher Jr.
John C. McGinley
David Del Rio
Set in Bogota, Colombia. Eighty US office workers receive a foreboding message over the building's intercom. As the office building locks down, trapping the workers inside, several people are killed by The Belko Corp. Once the tensions set in and groups start dividing, the situation becomes much dire and, factions are formed. The workers must try and survive by any means necessary even if that means killing their co-workers.
When news first broke that Greg McLean and James Gunn were teaming up to make a horror movie, my excitement level was through the roof. The man who gave us the Wolf Creek franchise and creature feature Rogue was teaming up with the man behind the twisted Slither and Guardians Of The Galaxy. This sounded like the perfect match made in heaven to me. James Gunn is known for his warped sensibilities while Greg McLean fires on all cylinders when delivering extremely intense yet visually gorgeous horror films. I was excited about this one.
As promotional material started to surface and the plot synopsis was released, I was even giddier. As a huge fan of Battle Royale, I was excited by seeing what these two had in store for us. While the plot seemed pretty familiar, in the hands of these two filmmakers, I thought we'd get something special. I was ready for some twisted shit that I know James Gunn could write. I was ready for a gruesome bloodbath. So after watching The Belko Experiment for the second time in two weeks, I think it actually loses some of its likeability instead of improving or growing on me.
What The Belko Experiment gets right first and foremost is that this is briskly paced. The movie is short and sweet. It takes no real time at all in getting to the violence or bloodshed. Within minutes, the announcement comes over the intercom, and the gore is given to the audience in bucketfuls. As the movie goes on, things escalate and just get more and more gruesome. Gorehounds will not be disappointed by the viscera on display. There are a few moments where even I winced. There is a scene involving an axe to the face that is one of the best uses of makeup fx that I've seen in a theatrical release since The Evil Dead remake.
In saying that the movie isn't very long. Because of the short running time, we don't get much in the way of character development. So for most of these characters, we don't care for them. While the movie barely gives us any character development, we know most of these eighty office workers are collateral damage and a death toll. So while we don't care for most of those who are murdered, the ones we do get to spend time with also aren't built on. We get only one main character who the script focuses on, and it's pretty predictable where things are going to lead with this character.
When it comes to the characters in the film, I didn't find all that many likeable. The two characters who I felt sorry for were Rusty Schwimmer's nice office lady and the girlfriend of our main guy. Even our leading man, who seems to be the only one who is on the ball about what's going on with this social experiment, isn't someone I found myself connecting with. Most of his decisions throughout cause a lot of shit to hit the fan and escalate. His girlfriend even advises him not to mess with certain people, and he still goes against her wishes which sadly has repercussions. A lot of silly character decisions seem to see a lot of people fall victim due to a lot of stupidity.
In terms of suspense, I found the movie to have a few neat set pieces that ramp up the tension. The execution foyer scene was incredibly tense. I also thought the scene where the workers fail to kill thirty of their co-workers, so the Belko Corporation now executes sixty of them was even a brutal and nasty little scene. One by one we watch characters who we've just started to see fight for their lives end up having their skulls explode. I don't think the movie is very scary at all, but we do get a few great little moments that had my blood pumping.
The acting in The Belko Experiment is pretty solid. John Gallagher Jr. is a decent actor and can play both good and bad roles well. Here, I didn't like his character much, but his performance was alright. Tony Goldwyn as the villainous officer manager is one of the standouts for me as is John C. McGinley who gets one of the best onscreen deaths in a horror movie all year. I cheered in his death scene. I thought Michael Rooker was sadly underused and I expected to see him in this movie more, and Adria Arjona as the girlfriend is gorgeous and has a few really badass moments in the film.
Lastly, The Belko Experiment I think retains that pretty twisted James Gunn sense of humour. I think the movie has some solid laugh out loud moments in the film. I liked Sean Gunn as the stoner who is under the impression that the higher up management has spiked the water supply. He is the comedy relief in the film, and I thought he got some great moments. There is also a token gay character who gets some hilarious if not stereotypical moments. His death is one of the most gruesome scenes in the film.
DEATH TOLL: 57 (Onscreen) + 27 (Offscreen)
BLOOD AND GORE:
- People are lined up and shot in the head, execution style.
- People are shot in the head.
- People's trackers are detonated, blowing out the backs of their skulls.
- Someone is stabbed in the stomach.
- A group of co-workers kick and stomp someone to death.
- People are murdered with a meat cleaver.
- Someone's neck is snapped.
- Someone is crushed in an elevator shaft.
- Someone is shot in the face with a machine gun.
- Bombs are planted on people and detonated.
- Someone is shot to death.
- Someone is stabbed in the heart with a kitchen knife.
- People are shot in the back.
- Someone is set on fire with a molotov cocktail.
- A guy slices the back of his head open with a box-cutter.
- Someone has their skull caved in with a wrench.
- Someone is impaled through the neck with a metal rod.
- A man has his skull crushed with a sticky-tape roller.
- A man has his face split in half with an axe.
- Someone's leg and arms are sliced with a guillotine blade.
- Someone is smacked in the head with a fire extinguisher.
The Belko Experiment is fast paced and a lot of fun. The movie is never once boring, and for that, I can't fault it. If you go in expecting some thought-provoking piece of cinema, you'll be sorely disappointed. The movie is gruesome and gory and has some pretty intense moments. I can't say that I found many of the characters likeable and the story is far from original. A few terrible uses of CGI also make some scenes look pretty dodgy and cheap, but as a fun and gory 'Battle Royale' type of flick, you will probably enjoy yourself with the carnage on display like I did.