Human nature is a fascinating thing. Under extreme circumstances, people change. They adapt. Most certainly, they’ll do anything to survive. I’ve always found stories about humans doing awful things to be far more frightening then a ghost story. The premise of madmen duo writer James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy fame) and director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) film The Belko Experiment (in theatres this Friday, March 17th) is a recipe for total carnage. 80 employees trapped inside their office building against their will. The stakes? They have 2 hours to kill 30 employees. If these demands aren’t met, the voice on the intercom states that they will randomly kill 60 of them. Now, you’ve seen this type of movie before. Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, The Running Man. You trap a group of people like rats and find out who’s the best of the best. Who doesn’t like a good old fashioned slaughter fest?
The day starts out innocently enough. We get our first glimpse at the doomed employees, going about their morning business. The first tip off that something is wrong is that the security point they pass through to get to work is now guarded by armed soldiers. All the other employees that work there have been sent home for the day. It’s not long once everyone is inside the building that the steel shutters come down over the windows and the games begin. In typical survival film fashion everyone splits into different groups. Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) and Leandra (Adria Ajorna) are an item. They believe that killing isn’t necessary, along with most of the other employees, so they form their own group of do gooders. Barry (Tony Goldwyn) and Wendell (John C. McKinley) could be called the main “villains” in the film (everybody does terrible things to each other in this, they just seem to be the ones orchestrating it). Barry has a family he has to worry about, and he’ll do anything to get back to them. In the most intense scene in the movie the “villains” take charge of the situation and line up everyone that doesn’t have children, execution style, and systematically start shooting them. Gruesome stuff. Of all the characters, Marty (Sean Gunn) steals the show as the hippy, conspiracy theorist. He’s certain everyone is just going crazy because they’ve all been drinking the water in the building. When he’s not smoking up, he’s actively searching out all the coolers of water and toppling them over to prevent anyone else from getting “infected”. Marty is some much needed comic relief in this otherwise extremely bleak tale.
My one and only gripe with the film is that they didn’t get very creative with the weapons. There was a really great opportunity to go crazy here and have people fighting with pencils, pens, any kind of office supplies really. It’s a shame. There is however a particularly memorable scene involving a tape dispenser, but most of the kills involve guns. It really just seemed like a missed opportunity to me (I know, I’m morbid).
Even though it doesn’t quite reach the heights of carnage I was expecting (I’m aware, super morbid) it combines intense violence and comedy to great effect. The Belko Experiment delivers on laughs and mayhem, and comes together for a wild ride that you should definitely take. – NVJ