“The Belko Experiment” Movie Review

For those of you who were upset about my being forgiving toward Kong: Skull Island and wanted me to really shred a movie apart, don’t fret. I just saw The Belko Experiment. This gory slasher horror-thriller was independently produced for a budget of $5 million, and will no doubt earn it all back in a matter of no time following its wide release on March 17th, 2017. Directed by Greg McLean from a script by James Gunn, of Super and Guardians of the Galaxy fame, the project was reportedly written way back in 2010, getting green-lit twice before officially entering production in late 2015. Set in the dump of nowhere near Bogota, Colombia, the narrative follows a group of white collar office workers at a small company called Belko Industries. One day, all of the doors and windows are suddenly shut off by blast doors, when a voice comes over the intercom and announces the start of a new “experiment.” If at least 30 people are not dead within the next several hours, then twice that amount will be killed. To be honest, that premise is actually quite fascinating. Essentially Battle Royale meets Office Space, there’s plenty of potential for a social study at human nature. Not to mention that, in recent years, low-budget horror films have been enjoying a sort of renaissance with their high concept stories and profitable box office receipts. Sadly, The Belko Experiment is not one of those pictures. To start off, the movie is unsure of itself in the tone. The least that a movie in this genre can do is to stay aware of what it is and focus on that aspect entirely. But The  Belko Experiment is never quite confident in what exactly it wants to be. On the one hand, the story could make for an interesting social commentary on how far human beings will go in a game of survival. But it doesn’t take itself seriously enough to be that, so then it could possibly be a dark comedy or satire. But the movie is not funny enough to be classified as such, so then all that’s left for it is a shameless gore fest. And if that’s what it actually wanted to go for, then The Belko Experiment pulled it off with flying colors because, oh my God. There is not a chance that anything released this year from this moment onwards will be more violent than this. Even James Mangold’s Logan seemed tame compared to this film. I would dare called it “Saw without the traps,” but to say that it’s THAT violent and disturbing would be a bit of an overstatement. Despite that, there are actually moments of fun. As soon as the experiment started everything got more suspenseful and you felt that anyone could be a killer. When it comes to the cast, there’s only so much that can be expected from a film like this. Mostly comprised of lesser-known actors, a handful of them actually do a respectable job given the material. John Gallagher Jr. is perfect material for our Everyman protagonist that wants out of this situation. His talkative demeanor makes him more relatable and makes you want to root for him. On the opposite end of that spectrum is Scrubs star, John C. McGinley, who is just so creepy to watch, it’s a bit uncomfortable. He clearly is having the most fun out of anyone with his role, especially when hay hits the fan and goes on a killing spree. Everyone else, though, is either phoning it in or trying way too hard. Michael Rooker and Tony Goldwyn, arguably the biggest names in the movie, seem particularly stiff and wanting of more to say and do. Also, I don’t understand why some cast members think they have to act cartoony. One character reaches an emotional breaking point and starts to cry. But his cry was so fake and unbelievable. I don’t quite know if it was the actor’s fault, but it definitely took me out of the movie for that moment in time. Oh yeah, and there’s one character arc that goes absolutely nowhere. There could be an argument that it was a trick into letting the audience know that no one in this building was safe and that anyone could die. But that doesn’t change the fact that it was built up to a point where you really care for them, and then suddenly they get killed out of the blue. It was at this point in the 88-minute running time that I figured a good ending could redeem the movie as a whole. But the truth is I HATED the ending for The Belko Experiment. This has got to be one of the most on-the-nose setups for a potential sequel I’ve seen in recent cinema. For a while, I was wondering how it was going to end, and then this is what we get? It’s borderline insulting. In all honesty, it’s possible to see this as the start of a new franchise in the same vein as The Purge. Though the first movie doesn’t achieve its full potential, the sequel(s) can capture what a lot of movie fans like myself were expecting on the first go-around. For right now, though, The Belko Experiment is an empty, shameless gore fest confused in tone and direction, but with some fun parts sprinkled in here and there.

Image result for the belko experiment

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