The Belko Experiment (2017)
“All employees, lend me your full attention.”
I forgave Greg McLean for last years The Darkness because Greg gave us Wolf Creek, Wolf Creek 2, and Rogue. Does his new movie The Belko Experiment deliver a return to form? First, a plot paragraph …
In Bogotá, Colombia, American employees of non-profit Belko Industries arrive at work to find some new security guards turning away all the local employees for reasons unknown. Some time later, out of the blue, an ominous voice on the PA system tells them that in order to live the 80 employees in the building must kill two of their fellow office workers (in a certain amount of time) or die. Thinking it an elaborate hoax no-one does anything. At the alloted time The Voice on the PA system advises them that their time is up. While everyone stands around waiting to see who the practical joker is the heads of two of the people in the crowd suddenly explode. It seems the chip implanted in the backs of their heads to aide the authorities should they ever be kidnapped in Colombia contain small bombs that The Voice can activate. The Voice (yes, he is listed in the credits as The Voice) then tells everyone that 30 must be killed or 60 will die. Cue the madness.
Greg McLean is back and he’s also back in my good books. The Belko Experiment perfectly blends director Greg’s distinctive brand of visceral brutality with the dark, dark, humor of writer James Gunn as the office workers turn on each other desperate to avoid the fate of the Ultimate Headache.
The opening sweep through the office in The Belko Experiment swiftly shows who is who. We get to meet the security guard, the maintenance worker, the new employee, the office stoner, the hottie, the geek, the serious “here to work” type, the introvert, the extrovert, the creepy guy, The Boss, all sketched out just before the craziness begins. The genius of The Belko Experiment is that these stereotypes, while occasionally larger than life, will strike a chord with anyone who has every worked in Cube World reminding them of people they have worked with.
In the middle of the madness is every-man Mike Milch played by rising genre fave John Gallagher Jr.(Hush, 10 Cloverfield Lane). If Mike was a real person his friends would probably call him “Nice Guy Mike”. He is down to earth, funny, caring and always tries to do the right thing. This proves increasingly difficult as everything falls apart at Belko.
What I liked about The Belko Experiment is that it does what it says on the box. You get exactly what you think you’re going to get here. Strong shocks and violence. It is a Greg McLean movie after all. Having said that there are some healthy handfuls of humor that pop in occasionally, most of it courtesy of stoner cafeteria worker Marty Espenscheid, played by Sean Gunn. The laugh one minute, scream or squirm the next helps to make Belko a real emotional roller coaster.
Helping to make it all work are a great cast. It says a lot about an actors abilities that in a brief couple of scenes you quickly get to know who they are and care about them, or in some cases hate them. Kudos to Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Rusty Schwimmer, Owain Yeoman, and Michael Rooker among others.
There have been a number of high profile reviews bleating about how mean-spirited, brutal, and dark The Belko Experiment is. This is because most general movie critics are somewhat misguided about what they are going to get with a Greg McLean movie. His movies are not violent in the safe Hollywood style of some PG-13 horror film, they are truly tough, uncomfortable and grim. That’s how he rolls. He pushes your endurance to make you go through the ringer with the protagonist. In The Belko Experiment there is no safe place to hide, nowhere to find comfort, it is hell all over.
As a gorehound I found the whole movie tough, tense, and terrifying. I also found it gratifying that early on in the madness the writers didn’t play favorites with the cast. You quickly understand that no-one is safe from the insanity and that everyone is a potential predator or victim.
Ultimately The Belko Experiment delivers on its promise of visceral violence and dark humor and while it may not be to everyone’s tastes I personally loved it.
Two word review: Tough job.