The Belko Experiment is an original horror-comedy movie written by James Gunn, who is best known as the writer-director of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, but actually has an extensive horror pedigree going all the way back to his beginnings with Troma Films.
If you’ve seen any of Gunn’s horror films or online shorts, you know he likes to inject a healthy dose of dark humor that at times borders on strange and sick…but in a good way.
That blend of horror and comedy is the backbone of The Belko Experiment which is set in a lone office building in the middle-of-nowhere outside of Bogotá, Colombia. It starts out with the employees arriving at work, amidst an over-abundance of new security protocols.
We meet many of the employees, and just another day at the office soon turns into a deadly game of survival as they become trapped inside and ordered to kill one another to stay alive.
The spoiler-free review is this film balances the laughs and the carnage well, and it also as an unexpected psychological element that makes you question what you would do if it were you. Director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) keeps the pressure on the characters and it doesn’t quite end the way you think it will.
This film isn’t for the easily squeamish, and the kills are not subtle, but The Belko Experiment is one I look forward to watching again. Horror fans should put this on their watch lists.
Continue scrolling for the review with possible spoilers…
As I mentioned above, The Belko Experiment starts as the employees arrive in the morning for work at the Bogotá.office of The Belko Corp, where a bunch of North American transplants work to assist U.S. corporations hire employees for South American markets.
We get brief introductions to some of the main characters as they go through a massive security checkpoint, which seems to be new to the regulars. These introductions continue inside the building as we get to know all the principal employees and how they interact with each other. Naturally some employees are a bit abrasive. Others are just going through the routine on another work day.
All of this comes to a screeching halt…literally…as a voice comes over the intercom and tells the employees that they must kill 30 of their fellow employees or 60 of them will be killed by those holding them captive.
It’s a joke, right? Right?
The soon learn that it isn’t as the building seals up with metal plates sliding over the doors and windows. The tension is enough to make one’s head explode. Which it does for several employees as the captors make it clear they are not playing around.
It’s at this point another day at the office turns into a multi-floor Battle Royale steel cage match. Some employees hide. Some adopt a “kill or be killed” attitude. And a select few try to figure out how to save everyone…which gets harder by the minute.
Once the mayhem starts, it’s fast, and gory, and anything but subtle. This isn’t about earning style points with the kills. This all about survival. Though I will say there are a few inventive kills…along with a couple of “WTF!” ones, too.
Even though the situation isn’t a joke, Gunn writes in a lot of dark humor that, to me, culminates in a hilariously weird multiple-kill scene starring Gunn’s brother Sean as a stoner employee not quite grasping the situation.
As the two lead protagonists, John Gallagher Jr. and Tony Goldwyn play the ying-yang of the moral dilemma at hand well. The cast also features many fine character actors, such as Michael Rooker, John C. McGinley, Rusty Schwimmer, Adria Arjona, Melonie Diaz, Owain Yeoman, Brent Sexton, Abraham Benrubi, and Gregg Henry.
I loved the use of Latin versions of American pop songs like “California Dreaming” and “I Will Survive” to set the mood, as well. You find yourself humming along at the worst moments before you realize you’re doing it.
The Belko Experiment isn’t a perfect horror movie. It’s a bit bleak at times, we don’t get a lot of time with many of the characters so their deaths are more body counts than meaningful, and the twist ending has a lot in common with a plot point of 2011’s Cabin in the Woods.
But overall, it’s a solid blend of terror, tension, turmoil, and a twisted sense of humor. The special and practical effects are well-done, too. I loved it, and will probably buy it when it’s out on DVD.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Belko Experiment
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars
Director: Greg McLean
Writers: James Gunn
Cast: John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, Sean Gunn, Michael Rooker, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Rusty Schwimmer, Owain Yeoman, Brent Sexton, Abraham Benrubi, Gregg Henry
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