By: Jessica Goddard
The Belko Experiment, directed by Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) and written by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), is a cruel, manipulative, needless exploit into pure violence and gore.
The basic premise is familiar – a bunch of people trapped in a setting where they’re told to kill one another “or else”, after which point chaos and brutality ensue. Yes, it’s Hunger Games-ian, but the initially mundane office setting and the quickly established relationships and acquaintanceships could have made this movie quite interesting. Unfortunately, The Belko Experiment passes up on every natural opportunity it has to make some real commentary, in favour of just injecting pure shock value wherever possible.
To give this movie its credit, this is certainly not a boring film – a lot happens. If you’re a fan of pure viciousness and graphic images of collapsed skulls and exploding brains, you’re in for a wicked time. But if you were hoping for an intelligent thought-experiment or commentary on the nature of humans in competition for survival, you’re more likely to encounter clichés and one-dimensional villains. You spend a lot of the film waiting for a clever twist that will justify all of the horrific brutality you’ve just witnessed, but there is no such twist. In fact, The Belko Experiment leaves you with more questions than answers.
Not only is this film uninhibited when it comes to grisly violence, it also has no particular problem clawing at the viewer’s heartstrings. If you’re easily affected emotionally by people begging and crying not be murdered by a firing squad of their peers, this movie will kick you when you’re down over and over again until you’re wondering why you volunteered to sit in a theatre and feel this way.
Gunn’s screenplay definitely opts into a couple of risks here and there, but for the most part, he takes the easy way out when confronted by issues of logic. It’s also just a frustrating script for the viewer. For example, the intercom that instructs everyone to kill each other says at one point that there’s only two rules; yet when the colleagues start devising ways around those rules, the intercom comes back and basically says, “okay, you’re not allowed to do that either though.”
Finally, the ending of this film is kind of a mess. Not always in the “brains exploding all over the place” kind of way, but in the sense that it loosely makes sense, and is only believable if you’re a particularly generous movie goer when it comes to endings. There’s no sense of payoff here, and I would argue it’s almost disrespectful to the viewer how quickly and easily the final conflict is resolved.
All in all, this is a deeply sadistic, vicious film. But if it’s action you’re looking for (and you don’t consider yourself squeamish), The Belko Experiment might just be for you.
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Jessica Goddard: @TheJGod