The Belko Experiment poses an interesting question – if you had to, which co-worker of yours would you feel most okay about killing? We live in a moral gray area that says logically picking these people out seems like the best course of action. The older, of course. They’re at the end, anyway. Those without family are next in line, no one will miss them. Although Belko doesn’t spend too much time contemplating these ideas before it becomes an every man for himself gore fest, the film still ends up being a fun, violent thrill ride.
Written by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and directed by Greg McLean, The Belko Experiment follows 80 some Belko employees who run into some mysterious new security checks on their way into their office building in Colombia. What starts as a normal work day soon becomes a twisted social experiment when the employees are instructed to choose two of their coworkers to kill or the ominous intercom voice will choose people at random. The employees assume it’s a prank, so they go about their day. That’s when people’s heads start exploding. It’s brutal, graphic, and insane. The bodies of four employees are left where they fall, their heads blown to pieces as a stark reminder for the remaining Belko employees what happens when you don’t follow the rules. The whole scene is one of the better ones, with quick cuts and fleeing people to give it a chaotic energy, and although it’s fairly easy to suss out no one is shooting at the employees — their heads are exploding from the inside — the reveal still has an inevitable dread clinging to it.
After that, the rest of the film becomes a matter of learning which employees are okay with crossing into the moral gray area that is needed to survive. There’s the boss, Barry (Tony Goldwyn), who quickly takes charge in deciding the next 30 employees to die by trying to use logic (who has family etc). Barry’s second-in-command Wendell (John C. McGinley), whose pervy flirtations and advances with his female coworkers makes it clear he’s not someone to root for. He takes to killing coworkers with ease and a manic gleam in his eye like it was his destiny or something. Finally, there’s Mike (John Gallagher Jr.), the likable everyday man who believes they must all retain their morality, even though head’s are exploding around him. Those are the three major players. The rest of the cast, while mostly siding with Mike, kind of act as a peanut gallery, playing Devil’s Advocate to both sides of the argument.
Ultimately, The Belko Experiment doesn’t have much new to say in the area of trying to do what’s right in a crap situation. The film knows this social experiment is wrong, but the lasting implications of killing 80 people is unclear. Survival is human nature. But what happens after that? Belko leaves that up to its audience, but with little evidence to try and make a decent argument.
Still, Belko manages to be an entertaining hour and a half. Though the huge cast of characters means there’s unbalanced screen time for them, leaving some with not much to do (Michael Rooker, especially), the film does manage some emotionally thought out scenes. The lobby scene when Barry is executing coworkers is particularly difficult to watch. But if you like gore, and you like violence, and you follow James Gunn on Facebook and practically followed this film through its entire production, you’ll appreciate Belko.