Director: Greg McLean Starring: John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, John C. McGinley Synopsis: In a twisted social experiment, 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company's intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed (Source: IMDb). Rated: R
Filmmaker James Gunn is best known in the public sphere as the guy behind the family-friendly live-action adaptations of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (including the upcoming ‘Vol. 2’). But, as genre fans well know, the Troma alum has a fiendish dark side. Before Rocket-ing a talking raccoon and a bipedal tree to pop status, Gunn was hard at work terrifying moviegoers with horror films like Slither and the Dawn of the Dead remake. Though Gunn himself did not fill out the director’s chair on set of The Belko Experiment (that honor went to Wolf Creek‘s Greg McLean), it is his ink that scribed the script. And while the film’s unrelenting violence will spread sadistic smiles across the faces of hardcore horror heads, it’s unlikely to have much appeal beyond that.
This is mostly due to the film’s unbalanced focus. It offers more style than substance. Eighty co-workers trapped inside an office building must choose to kill thirty of their own or a random assortment of sixty will face death at the hands of the ruthless (and mysterious) powers that be. It’s an intriguing premise ((even if it’s been done before in better films like Battle Royale (2000) or Cube (1998)) but McLean doesn’t take full advantage of this moral dilemma. Instead, he is more interested in showing us all the different, gruesome ways someone can be bludgeoned, maimed, and killed with typical office supplies.
It’s a bit disappointing that The Belko Experiment isn’t great, considering the talent both behind and in front of the camera. That isn’t to say there aren’t good performances in the film. In fact, the performances were this reviewer’s favorite thing about the film. John Gallagher Jr., in particular, sinks his teeth into arguably the meatiest role of the bunch as the pro-life voice of reason who’s caught up in all the hellish havoc. When people start to snap (and they do), his character largely sticks to his belief that life is sacred.
The other characters, however, do not get such a deep treatment. Though most everyone starts off friendly enough and slowly teeter towards the brink of madness, some of the more prominent characters do so fairly quickly. The result is equal parts disenchanting and disheartening. It’s part of The Belko Experiment‘s perpetual pessimism, which fans such as myself will no doubt revel in. It might also put off potential viewers who are not accustomed to such negative vibes.
If you are like me, however, and you’re just looking for an excuse to indulge your inner darkness, then The Belko Experiment has what you’re looking for. If you’re also like me, the gore and character at its core (played by JGJ) might leave you wanting more (I’m a natural Dr. Seuss!). If you’re not like me, then, well…
The Belko Experiment will trap you in theaters this Friday, March 17th.
Horror is definitely an acquired taste. Are you a fan? If so, did you like The Belko Experiment? Are you excited for another James Gunn gorefest? Let me know in the comments below!