Smaller films need to be smart about when they release the film to the public in order to maximize profit. This weekend is a prime example of such an outcome with counter programming heavily in place. The Belko Experiment showcases a ton of blood and gore to combat the Beauty and the Beast‘s family oriented entertainment. The following review will be spoiler free.
The Belko Experiment is directed by Greg McLean and stars John Gallagher Jr., Adria Arjona, and Tony Goldwyn.
The film follows a group of eighty workers at their high-rise corporate office. Things seem to be going along just fine when a voice comes over the intercom at the office. The voice says that the those in the office must kill or be killed. As a result, insanity ensues, leaving a select few at the office to fend for themselves.
This film is produced by BH Tilt, which is Blumhouse‘s multi-platform release branch that has its own slate of low-budget films that largely get released to streaming or on-demand services. However, sometimes these films are able to get a boost into a theatrical release due to special circumstances.
Surprisingly, we have the success of Guardians of the Galaxy for this film. James Gunn wrote the script to The Belko Experiment, giving the film an extra layer of intrigue for genre enthusiasts. Before he hit it big with Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn made a name for himself directing or writing many hyper violent films such as Super, Slither, and the Dawn of the Dead remake. No matter the film, Gunn always seems to create an intriguing premise, consistently subverting genre cliches and making a truly original film. These notes gave me a little boost of excitement to see his latest writing project.
What I Liked
Whether or not you like this movie depends on how well you handle gratuitous violence. The Belko Experiment is extremely brutal and knows that it is as every second passes. This movie revels in the idea killing people in new, inventive ways with everyday office objects. Even when you think the movie is going to take the story in a different direction and have some higher meaning, it doubles down on the killing and becomes even more gruesome. So, if you don’t enjoy gore, stay away from The Belko Experiment at all costs.
But what The Belko Experiment has going for it is a great premise that feels somewhat realistic. Once the intentions of the people over the intercom prove to be fatal for those in the office, there’s a nice moral dilemma that comes over you as an audience member in regards to how you would react in such a circumstance. The situation forces characters to decide whether to kill multiple people or do nothing. Given the atmosphere that the film sets, these questions are warranted and have a lasting effect on you as the viewer.
What I Didn’t Like
The Belko Experiment, like the blood that is splattered all over the walls, is a bit of a mess tonally. It felt like the film tried to have some sort of satirical edge to the senseless killing, but the film was neither clever enough to pull it off nor funny enough to distract from the murders, so what we end up getting is a film that jumps between brutal killings and jokes which leads to a weird and sometimes unpleasant feel overall.
The film also attempts to have the feel that it’s happening in real time but has illogical jumps in time to progress the story. Sorry, but I don’t buy it when the intercom announces that the workers have two hours to kill a certain amount of people when the film itself is less than an hour and a half and tries to make it feel like the workers are reacting to things in real time. This issue only adds to the messy nature discussed above.
What I Liked…Continued
That being said, there’s a certainly quality about The Belko Experiment that is very fascinating. The film has a bleak atmosphere that envelopes each character, giving the movie a realistic feel that really ramps up the tension as the story progresses. The score of the film has a pulse that mimics a heart beat, which in turn puts you on edge as the film pumps you with adrenaline, making your heart race with the action.
I appreciated the film’s attention to detail in setting up a solid environment. While the ultimate realization of The Belko Experiment may fall flat, it meticulously sets up and gets rid of any loopholes that a worker might find to get out of the office. We see it all the time when people are stuck in certain situations; audience members start yelling at the screen for the character to just do some simple task. But, obviously they won’t do so because that idea would ruin the movie’s concept. The script written by James Gunn accounts for all possible escape routes and quickly expunges the notion of fleeing from the characters’ minds, trapping them and forcing them to make a moral decision that affects countless other people.
I do, however, wish that the film was more creative than the final product turned out to be. The film seems so focused on killing more people that it fails to do anything fun with its great concept. However, it’s obvious that the kills are meant to take center stage. Unfortunately, there’s too little thought put into the type of kills, making the film as a whole feel a little “run of the mill.” The Belko Experiment in this instance becomes a frustrating film because you can see the potential it had to be much more than what the final product ended up being.
The Belko Experiment is a mixed bag. There are certainly a lot of things to like and dislike about this movie. As mentioned before, whether or not the film swings positively or negatively depends on your ability to handle violence. This film is not for the casual moviegoer, but those who happen to enjoy gore and kills will certainly enjoy themselves. It gets a C+. The Belko Experiment may end up turning into a guilty pleasure for a lot of people.
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