We all have those movies that we just end up missing in the theatre. It’s not that there’s a lack of motivation, but sometimes life just gets in the way of spending your hard earned money at the Cineplex. For this reviewer, The Belko Experiment is one of those instances. I wanted to see it, and the trailers looked great, I just never got around to it. Now that the film has been released for home audiences, do yourself a favor and check it out. I promise you it’s the ultra-violent office massacre comedy you didn’t know you needed.
The film starts off at a break neck pace, with only mere minutes of exposition before diving head first into the carnage. The story revolves around a large multi-national corporation that likes to establish satellite offices in foreign countries, staffed almost exclusively with American workers. We are introduced to a few of the employees and we are given a tiny glimpse into some of their lives. The overworked maintenance worker (Michael Rooker), the girl showing up on her first day (Melonie Diaz), and the impatient COO (Tony Goldwyn) all have their brief moment to let us know who they are. These brief character traits are just enough to give us an idea of the type of people we may be dealing with before all hell breaks loose. It’s actually quite impressive what a talented writer can do with even a few seconds of screen time so that we feel a connection with a particular character. We’ll get into that later.
This office is just like any office you’ve ever been to/worked in. The only difference is that it’s on an isolated stretch of land in Colombia. On this day like any other, we then cut to a control panel with some ominous silhouette figures watching some monitors. With the flick of a switch, the entire building is shuttered in by large metallic panels to the dismay of the employees trapped within. A voice comes over the intercom instructing the Belko employees to start executing (X) number of employees, or “we” will execute (X) number of employees on our own. It seems like an elaborate hoax until the allotted time passes and a series of people’s heads gloriously explode from within.
At this point it is clear that everyone must decide whether to run, hide, or follow instructions. Mind you that I have described maybe the first 10 minutes of The Belko Experiment. There are plenty of twists and turns to come as true natures are revealed. This film is violent…very violent. However, this film is also a horror-comedy and a laugh out loud horror-comedy. It does a brilliant job of skewering corporate culture and the hive-mind/bottom line mentality that is prevalent in many companies. I admit that I was surprised at both the level of violence as well as the humor, often in the same scene.
The Belko Experiment does a great job of taking the audience of a fun little journey. It becomes a game of figuring out who will survive, or who may become a murderous psychopath. Sometimes it’s exactly what you think, and other times you were completely wrong. The exposition reveals just enough to give you peace-of-mind, but also leaving you foggy on the motivation of the experiment at large. I was very anxious to see what the ending would hold for our employees, and the “reveal” at the end satisfied this viewer. As with the rest of the film, it gives you enough to not annoy you, but it also doesn’t really answer all the questions you may have. I can happily report that I was not disappointed.
Now for the explanation of why it was so good. We care about most of the characters we are introduced to. It’s fun to see them thrive, or devolve into knife-wielding maniacs. It comes as no surprise that the script is the brainchild of the immensely talented James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither, Super). He’s obviously a horror fan and his characters are always the focus, which makes his films and characters relatable. In Belko for example, we know all these archetypes…the office dork, the hottie, the creep etc. It puts this heightened reality into terms we can all understand. He is also having a good time writing the script and putting these people in awful and awkward situations.
Add a quality director like Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) to the mix and you’ve got a compelling film. It seems like both filmmakers had a good collaboration and brought an outrageous story to life. One reviewer has called The Belko Expeiment “Office Space meets Battle Royale”. I would call that a very accurate cocktail. I would recommend watching the film loudly, and with a few friends. It’s fun to see what you will guess right and what you will get wrong.
Also, full disclosure…don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking around your place of employment the day after watching for ways of offing your fellow employees…Ya know, if you like HAD to.