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MOVIE REVIEW: The Belko Experiment (2016)

The Belko Experiment has been described as Office Space meets Battle Royale. To be honest I thought this was the usual inane Hollywood promotional BS, but after seeing it, it's a fair comparison. Maybe the funniest thing is after I watched The Belko Experiment, I went back to my hotel, and guess what was on cable. It's hard to be a gangsta. The fact I saw it on a mini vacation explains why this review is so late. Busy having fun, homes.
The Belko Experiment, if you haven't seen the previews, revolves around a group of office workers forced to fight in mortal combat. The film was written by James Gunn (Slither), directed by Greg McLean (Wolf Creek), and stars genre heavyweight Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead), as well as Tony Goldwyn (The Last House on the Left (2009)), and John Gallagher, Jr (10 Cloverfield Lane). Some (unneeded) humor was provided by Sean Gunn.
The story isn't much deeper than what you see in the previews. And that's not a bad thing. It is what it is – kill or be killed – and both happen, quickly and over and over again.
One of the issues facing The Belko Experiment was that people have grown accustomed to the lighter side of James Gunn, especially after Guardians of the Galaxy. I talked to several people after the film, many of them went in expecting light entertainment and were shocked at the level of violence. People seem to forget that Gunn is also the man who brought us The Descent and the gory Dawn of the Dead remake. People also apparently forgot that director McLean is the man who brought us Wolf Creek, which was just chock full of levity. Not!
Whatever your preconceptions, The Belko Experiment is not light. It doesn't take long to kick into gear, and once it starts rolling, it is bloody, violent and hard core. There is a sense that Goldwyn and Gallagher meet for a final showdown, don't try and predict anything else. The order people are killed in is unexpected. No one is safe, and some of the deaths really hit you hard.
After tons of mayhem and violence, it manages a fairly satisfying ending. The final scene, reminds me somewhat of A Serbian Film’s, “it's never over” ending.
The story is nothing deep, it's just a fun, violent thrill ride. John C McGinley (Office Space) near steals the show as creepy, stalkerish executive Wendell Dukes. Sean Gunn is funny as the dope smoking, paranoid cafeteria worker. Now I have heard some say his humor ruined the film for them. It didn't ruin it for me, and I did enjoy it, but it took away from the dread of the film.
When Corporate gives you the ax...
I know it is conventional wisdom that a horror film has to have some levity. Something to prevent it from becoming too dark. I don't agree with that theory. It was my main complaint with The Green Inferno (and most Eli Roth films). Maybe American film goers in general will be frightened off by a completely dark film, but maybe they won't. French films like Martyrs, and Frontier(s) work with little or no comic relief. I think genre fans will flock to a hard R with no jokes, or maybe I'm delusional, but damn, I would love to see more straight up no joke horror.
So while the humor didn't ruin it, I cant help but wish they hadn't added it. Still, The Belko Experiment is a very enjoyable horror film. Even with the humor it's not for the squeamish. If it's still playing near you, rush out to see it. If not, get ready to grab it on VoD or DVD.
Full on 7 out of 10.

Posted by Allen Alberson

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