Eighty Office Drones with bombs in their heads, a kitchen filled with knives, a locker full of firearms, and a mysterious voice in the ceiling commentating on a game of death; what else could a horror fan ask for?
With The Belko Experiment, writer and producer James Gunn harkens back to his Troma roots, delivering an over the top ode to carnage, nihilism, and primal savage. While the film’s message might muddled under an ocean of gore, and whatever insight it had to offer blown away like a Belko Employee’s cranium, Experiment offers what’s likely to be the most bloody fun time you’ve had in awhile; that is if your soul (and your stomach) can handle it.
Belko’s premise is simple, with similarities that can be traced all the way back to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. 80 employees of the Belko Corporation, each with a bomb stuck in their head, are locked in their building and given two options; kill 30 people, or let 60 have their skulls turn into red cottage cheese.
It’s not long before the sharks start to separate themselves from the minnows, with COO Barry Noriss (played with a beautiful touch of menace by Scandal star Tony Goldwyn) and others resorting to murder. And before the film is over, butcher Knifes, bullets, elevators, tape dispensers, and much more will have been used to dispatch the poor saps who chose to work at Belko.
Before we get to the good, some confessions have to be made. Had Belko made some different choices, it could have been a smarter film. John Gallagher Jr stars as Mike, our hero of sorts who refuses to resort to murder because…. actually thats all we get. Mike’s the moral compass, because the plot needed one. Wendell on the other hand, the office pervert, murders without discretion because…. well, he’s played by John C. McGinley for one thing. And the film needed a big bearded fat dude to go ham on some bitches with a meat cleaver.
Point is in Experiment, unlike the film it so closely apes Battle Royale, the characters are one note and unchanging, with villainous employees one mustache twirl away from tying a damsel to a train track, and hero’s who’d give Jesus a good run for his money. And despite director Greg Mclean’s best efforts, Belko never manages to be a very smart film.
What is it exactly that The Belko Corporation does? What dumb luck is it that none of the films primary characters are the ones to lose their noggins when the game makers decide to thin out the herd? Who in their right fucking mind would join a company that makes you put a goddamn microchip in your head? To these questions and more, James Gunn responds with a resounding shrug.
But I have to say I shrugged right back, because for what it lacks in layered characters and conceptual subtext, Belko more than makes up for with some of the most gleefully unabashed scenes of bloodshed ever shown in a theater. There’s 80 bodies up right and sniffing the air before the film begins, and more than a few of them will be 6 feet under before it’s over.
Here’s where your enjoyment of The Belko Experiment will take a very personal slant. For all you sickos out there who will laugh as a maniac messily chops up people in a bathroom, only to walk past a “Employees Wash Hands” sign, this is your kind of film. It’s nihilistic, it’s grotesque, and it giggles in the face of unrelenting darkness. And as an unrepentant celebration of sickness, Belko might be dumb, but goddamn if it isn’t a whole lot of fun. 8/10