March 4, 2017

Movie Review: The Belko Experiment

I swear, I think it was only a week ago that I first heard about The Belko Experiment. The trailer played before the movie Iced (a Video Vortex presentation at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers). I was immediately intrigued, turning to my theater neighbor, Michael Gingold (of Rue Morgue magazine) and asked if he knew of it. He told me he had seen it and that it was good. All right, that’s good. The trailer looked funny and violent and I spied the likes of Michael Rooker and John C. McGinley in the cast, and then I saw it was from the team of James Gunn and Greg McLean. All good. Then I get an email about a free screening with a live stream Q and A. Who am I to say no to that?

The Belko Experiment is a film that has had a long gestation period, beginning way back when James Gunn (Tromeo and Juliet, Slither, Guardians of the Galaxy) was working his way up with Troma. During the Q and A he mentioned that the idea came to him in a dream, where he dreamt the trailer pretty much as it exists today. Considering how busy he has been with Guardians of the Galaxy Chapter 2, he was clearly not in a position to take up the director’s reins. Greg McLean made a name on the horror scene with Wolf Creek, although he disappointed me with last year’s decidedly lackluster The Darkness, here he redeems himself with a quick paced and energetic darkly comic horror actioner.

To be fair, there really isn’t anything terribly original about the movie. This is not to say it isn’t good, just that it does not really offer anything new. It does appear, however, that they recognized this while they were making it and just made sure to execute it in as entertaining a fashion as possible. They succeeded. When I saw the trailer, the first movie that came to mind was Severance, but those named on the poster are more accurate, and would indicate they knew the ground they were treading. Those movies, of course, being Office Space and Battle Royale. Mix them up and you get the idea of what is happening here.

The setting is Bogota, Colombia. There is an office building in the middle of nowhere, which appears to be a new location for Belko and we pick up at the start of the day as all the workers are making their way in. Taking no time to get us curious and let us know that something is up, we find the employees being checked by new and heavily armed security, who are sending locals home as the non-Colombians are checked and ushered inside. Once inside, we learn about a few of the characters as they head to their desks to start the day.

Once we meet the important players inside, it is not long before the action begins. A voice comes over the PA system and tells them that they need to kill 30 people within the next two hours, or they would kill 60. At first no one believes it, but when people start dropping dead from gaping cranial wounds, they find themselves reconsidering the situation. Quickly they find themselves breaking down into camps, making decisions that they really don’t want to have to.

Some folks choose to run and hide, some band together to oppose the the instructions from the disembodied voice, while a few others feel the best course of action is to follow the instructions and begin the summary executions. It turns into a case of who is going to survive, who is going to have the strongest will to outlast the others. I have to say it was as fun as it was disturbing to watch how quickly some folks were to turn on the others, how easily some slipped into murderous ways.

The Belko Experiment is another movie that looks at how society will react when society is taken away. When the construct of order is removed, how will you act? It is an interesting idea, always will be. While this does not really offer any answers or any real new ideas, it does deliver some comically dark entertainment. You will laugh at stuff that will also make you cringe, you may find sympathy for the unsympathetic. You may just revel in the violence. I will admit to being amused and disturbed throughout. I loved the humor, the violence and the unexpectedness of some moments. If you want a little violence, some laughs, and to be entertained, this will do the trick.


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