The Belko Experiment Mar 17, 2017 0:12:54 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Mar 17, 2017 0:12:54 GMT -5
The Belko Experiment (2017)
Directed by: Greg McLean
Directed by: Greg McLean
John Gallagher Jr. tries to command a room of frightened office workers in The Belko Experiment.
The Belko Experiment is a taut, nihilistic horror-thriller and a truly gripping one at that. Its ugly fascination with the most deep-seated rage that bottles up inside a person during times of great distress and its depiction of the utter hopelessness of those who try to remain calm and collected in those same moments is as engrossing as it is spine-tingling. This is also the first film I've seen in recent memory that has no problem killing off one of its main characters in such a remorseless, unceremonious manner that it occurred to me the character might as well have been a totally new face. It's in these small ways that the film is bold.
The concept is so simple, you'll probably think of it as nothing more than serviceable fodder and I'm well aware that many will see it as such, with much fewer, if any, competent reviewers giving it a perfect score. In a twisted, soulless social experiment, 80 white-collar cubicle workers in BogotÃ¡, Colombia are held captive in a high-rise after thick metal barriers are activated over all escapable doors and windows of the building. A voice comes over the intercom initially stating that if two people aren't murdered in thirty minutes, four people will die. No one dares oblige to the demand they think is a joke, and as a result, four people are killed via a tiny bomb that's been tagged in their heads as a condition of working at this company.
The voice then comes on to state that if 30 people are not dead in two hours, then 60 people will die as a result. The manner in which they are selected to die is of no concern, they just need to be dead by the time-limit or bombs will be activated in the heads of random people. Through all the chaos, Mike Velch (John Gallagher Jr.) emerges as an unlikely voice of reason - a simple pacifist who states that attending to the idea of murder is unconscionable. The CEO of the company, Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn), in addition to two others, Wendell Dukes (John C. McGinley), a social pariah, and Terry Winters (Owain Yeoman), a beta-male of a family man, believe that sacrificing a few to potentially save many is a necessary evil. The three have no problem unlocking the security vault of pistols in order to carry out cold-blooded murder, something Mike and his confidant, Leandra (Adria Arjona), can't even stomach.
The once orderly, squeaky-clean office of Belko soon devolves into a haven of bloodshed and bad decision-making. Initially, we stick close to two janitors, who try to melt the metal barriers with a blowtorch, until they discover that the fire doesn't make the thick, unheard of metal even warm to the touch. We also keep tabs on a young woman, who hides in the underground boilers of Belko, as well as a strange stoner who feels there are chemicals in the water that's making everyone crazy. This eclectic bunch's true sides and personalities are revealed to us in a way that gradually breaks down the facelessness of those working in corporate America.
The idea that some act upon violence when placed in a situation where it's either permitted or encouraged to do so is hardly a new concept. The Belko Experiment's comparisons to Battle Royale are understandable and agreeable to a certain extent, but it's almost like a Lord of the Flies for adults, proving that their decision-making process is no more or less rational than those of young kids forced to act upon their ids in an ugly situation. The film also takes notes from the mind-numbing atmosphere of the corporate office as seen in Office Space, in addition to the violent lawless behavior seen in The Purge trilogy.
And yet with all this influence, The Belko Experiment still manages to create something exhilarating as opposed to original. Don't take those two key descriptors of the film lightly. Here's a blatantly derivative concept, one that almost can't be explained without having to reference other known works in order to articulate its premise, yet manages to craft a wildly entertaining, well-paced, and extremely menacing thriller - with the use of mostly "that guy/girl" actors, as well. You might recognize John Gallagher Jr. from his supporting performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane, a film that already had so few performances as it was. You might recall John C. McGinley in Oliver Stone's Talk Radio, or even Office Space, and remember how uneasy he made you feel in the former. And finally, maybe Tony Goldwyn - arguably the biggest "that guy" actor in the room - will finally come a bit more than another face after his absolutely terrifying performance here.
The film was directed by Greg McLean, who made two of the best horror films of the new century with Wolf Creek and its sequel. McLean knows how to use environments and twisted character traits in order to get the certain rise out of his audience he demands, but this time, he outsources the screenplay duties to Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn. Gunn does a phenomenal job of allowing the characters' carnal desires and public personalities unfold over the course of the film, and challenges himself to show that throughout a lot of bloodshed, something only few writers would even dare attempt. The result is tremendously effective.
The Belko Experiment is brilliant entertainment and infused with commentary that should leave you primed, especially if you're like me, and films like The Stanford Prison Experiment and the aforementioned Battle Royale are more to you than difficult-to-watch violence and a regurgitation of commonly reiterated ideas. This is a film that has a menacing personality in itself, one that's not always reflected off of its characters, with a venomous bite in the form of black humor and a frightening desire to get up close and personal with the victims and the fatalities when most other films would turn their cameras away to an exterior shot of the location. Every gunshot and internal-explosion, with a lethal consequence or not, hits hard in this film, and McLean and Gunn work together to give this film such an attitude and an impact that begs it to be left in your memory for a long time.
NOTE: My video review of The Belko Experiment:
Starring: John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, John C. McGinley, Owain Yeoman, Melonie Diaz, and Josh Brener. Directed by: Greg McLean.