The Belko Experiment (2017)

2:25 PM

Choose Your Weapon
This review contains spoilers.
 The Belko Experiment is directed by Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, The Darkness) and is written by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of the Dead). The film stars John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane, Hush), Tony Goldwyn (Ghost, Scandal) and Adria Arjona (True Detective, Emerald City). "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". From Blumhouse Tilt, the studio behind the beyond violent, The Green Inferno but also the critically panned, The Darkness - will The Belko Experiment succeed in being brutal and a good film?


I didn't actually expect to get to see The Belko Experiment at the cinema as I suspected it would get a limited release - I was correct but plans came together and I was in a city where the film was playing. Am I happy I saw it? Yes - not only do I like watching as many films as possible but this is one I had seen the trailers for and it seemed interesting - it certainly was interesting. I think The Belko Experiment plays just how you would expect it to - its very violent and brutal, has an interesting concept but there are too many characters brought to life by mediocre performances. I think this film will satisfy hardcore horror fans who miss the days of brutal, thought provoking horror flicks but I don't think it will click with the mainstream as easily. 

The best part of The Belko Experiment is definitely the story - I think the concept is genius - everyone thinks of hypothetical situations like this but this film brings it to life. If you like The Purge films, you will probably like this - there are similarities to that film but this notches up the violence to an 11. This is probably one of the most engaging films I have watched since Eye in the Sky - a film that had me and my friend debating and questioning the choices of the character aloud in the cinema (thankfully we were the only ones watching). The situation these characters are poised with is, do they kill 30 others or have a random 60 killed automatically? I suppose this film asks similar questions to the film Circle. I could honestly agree with and make solid arguments for both sides of the fence - 
1. Think logically and save more lives so sacrifice 30 instead of 60 
2. A sadistic mind is behind this experiment so most are going to die anyway so why waste time debating and try and find a way out. 
The experiment is reasonably well thought out - the people have been working at Belko for at least a year so relationships have developed and they have all been giving tracers - they think to help with possible kidnappings but they are actually internal bombs (I don't know if I'd happily join a company that required me to have a tracer injected into my neck because of kidnapping risks). The twist at the end is also quite interesting - the idea that this experiment was not the only one going on and that this is just the beginning. Unfortunately, The Belko Experiment hasn't seen amazing financial success so we will likely never get a sequel - however, we can assume that possibly all of the 'winners/survivors' will fight to the death or that the next phase is to see how they settle back into mundane life after the experiment. The film attempted to explain the purpose of the experiment but I don't think it was clear enough - it sounded like the purpose was like any other purpose that doesn't risk lives so I think some more explaining and expanding should have been done so we could understand why it had to be as brutal as it was. 

Speaking of brutal, this film truly is a horror film. Despite lacking ghosts, psychotic killers (arguable) or supernatural forces, the visuals in this film were so gory and horrific. The film begins portraying everyday work life and I was tricked into forgetting the genre - as soon as the first head exploded, I felt really uncomfortable and was on the edge of my seat. It is truly horrific to see how evil humans can become when put in situations like this - it just proves that some people are really out there just for themselves. It was so predictable yet true that the alpha males of the group teamed up to take down everybody else - meanwhile everybody else was trying to think of solutions other than killing. Every single death or fight was very brutal and ruthless - inhumane is probably the best word; from the exploding heads to gun shots to axes to sellotape holders...yes, sellotape holders are pretty lethal, oh and let's not forget the lift!!!. The Belko Experiment is refreshingly light on jump scares but very heavy on the blood, guts and gore. 

One big problem with the film (was always going to be) was the overload of characters - there are way too many. As an audience, we were never going to be able to fully care about 80 different people. It is also very clear from the outset which characters are going to be important/survive later on - Mike, Barry, Leandra, Wendell and Dany are introduced early on and have stories we follow more than others. However, I feel like Dany's storyline was pretty pointless and we spend a lot of time with her and are tricked into believing she will be the dark horse but she literally comes out of an elevator and gets shot - following her for a chunk of the movie for nothing. Mike is the everyman - he isn't clean cut, he's quite scruffy and the most normal looking and of course he is the lone survivor - it is found out this is because he is closest to humanity. If you watch horror films often, you will be able to predict the killing order of The Belko Experiment within the first 10 minutes. I also want to briefly mention that the interesting music choices were quite good - a lot of them juxtaposed what was occurring on screen but they were all effective. 

Finally, the performances - nothing too great unfortunately. The minor characters were played pretty awfully in some cases but thankfully, our leads were at least tolerable. The best performance definitely came from John Gallagher Jr. but he was closely followed by Tony Goldwyn. I think if anyone is going to be remembered from this film, it will be those two. Horror ensembles are always uneven and The Belko Experiment is no exception. Maybe if some actors of a slightly higher calibre were recruited, The Belko Experiment would have been slightly better and seen by more audiences as I think this concept is franchise worthy - it's no worse than The Purge films. 

The Belko Experiment is a satisfying horror flick that may be light on character development and well, development in general but it makes up for that by providing true horror - horrific visuals, horrific characters and a really horrifically thought-provoking concept. I don't know if I'm more forgiving of this films flaws because I'm 110% sold on the concept but I just really enjoyed it - especially with a running time of 80 minutes, there isn't much to complain about. The performances however are uneven and mediocre and more experienced actors could have done a better job. I would say that The Belko Experiment succeeds in its mission but I still can't work out what it's mission was...

60
/100

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