Review of "The Belko Experiment (DVD)"

published 27/11/2017 | Secre
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"Final pennies from Ciao on a crappy film..."

The Belko Experiment was a film that caught my attention on the in-flight entertainment system as it looked like it could have been a really suspenseful psychological thriller. As it turns out, they went down the ‘blow everybody’s heads up’ routine instead of psychological suspense, instead choosing to shower you with blood, gore and so much of it that you quickly gave up caring. Not the best of approaches.

In two minutes we want thirty of you dead. If thirty of you are not dead, we will end sixty of your lives ourselves. Five, four, three, two, one. Begin.

The basic premise is quite intriguing. Belko Industries has a remote multi-storey office building and Mike Milch, one of our key characters, arrives one morning to find security staff turning away some individuals but letting others in. Approximately eighty employees are let in for the day and then everything goes wrong; a voice over the intercom announces that unless those present kill two of their co-workers in a certain amount of time, more will be killed at random. Huge shutters go up around the building, trapping everyone within it and time begins to tick down.

You know the story. Heads explode, people are stabbed, sliced, and shot. I'd rather see 'Final Destination' type creativity with this sub- genre.

The initial thinking is that this is clearly a hoax in bad taste and obviously nobody goes out and murders anyone else, but when it is dramatically shown – via a lot of heads exploding – that this is not a joke at all, things begin to get tense. The voice then proceeds to announce that unless thirty of the employees are dead within the next two hours, sixty will be killed. This leads to wide-spread panic and the beginning of what could have been a really in-depth and interesting psychological thriller, but instead just became a gore fest that I struggled to care much about either way.

Total waste of a talented cast. There's no real story, No depth to the plot at all. Just an hour and a half of mindlessly killing people in a semi entertaining way.

Some of the things that a group of people trapped in this situation would do are indeed tried, including trying to send help messages from the roof and other such ideas. Likewise, they figure out how the unnamed voice is killing them remotely and try to get around that, so there is some level of psychological suspense. Unfortunately, the film quickly gives up on the psychological aspects in favour of the really American approach; blow stuff up – people included – and hope for the best.

For all its promise to be a wry commentary on the savagery of office politics, “The Belko Experiment” is more like an experiment in how many cracked-open skulls can be crammed into one movie.

So many characters are killed that within the first half hour you don’t have any attachment to anyone anymore; there isn’t any point, I figured there’s at least a 90% chance they are going to die, so why waste any emotion on them. The characterisation of the human race with one group taking charge and executing people whilst another smaller group wants to act morally… and the largest amount of people sit around and wait to be killed… could have been clever. Unfortunately, not enough is made of anything other than the violence by far and so it just ends up being a gore-fest.

“The Belko Experiment” Pretends That Showing Us 80 Office Workers Murder Each Other Makes a Point About Things

When I hear the words ‘psychological thriller’, I anticipate that there is going to be some semblance of intelligence hidden within the film. It might be hidden quite deep, but I expect it to be there somewhere at the very least. This didn’t even try. The film quickly descends into a blood bath and any tension or even horror is lost because the film just throws so much gore at you that you become desensitised. A film that could have been cleverly worked to show the darker sides of humanity fighting with the light instead just revolves around the explosion of skulls.

Don’t expect style or invention, much less satire. Its only interest as an experiment is that, out of duty, the roomful of critics I saw it with all stuck around until the end.

I don’t particular enjoy large amounts of gore and violence in films so this wouldn’t have been a choice for me had I realised that its focus was on the blowing stuff up. That said, I can’t actually imagine an audience that would enjoy this unless you are watching purely for the same of massively overly relied upon gore and violence. There’s barely any plot because the entire thing just revolves around people’s skulls exploding and other people running around with guns that, for some awesome reason, were kept stored in the damn building. Because every large corporation has a gun collection hidden downstairs.

Despite cutesy Spanish-language covers of American songs playing on the radio, the proceedings are relentlessly grim and violent.

In honesty, there’s not a vast amount to say about the acting because the film doesn’t really require any of those present to show spectacular acting skills. The few that are worth a brief and unexcited few lines about would be perhaps John Gallagher Jr, who plays Mike Milch, the main employee that you follow; his acting is reasonable but in reality all he’s trying to do is persuade co-workers not to blow each other up and often failing and then running away and hiding. Tony Goldwin plays the CEO, Barry Norris, well and does manage to come across as the distinctly amoral and utterly ruthless logical mathematician in the scenario. I.e, that more people will die if he doesn’t take charge and execute people.

The sadism enacted on screen is directed at the audience, battering us with horrific, deadening images. McLean takes splat to a whole new level, and soon every surface is slick with blood.

The only other person worth noting is John C. McGinley who plays a very realistic smiling lunatic psychopath… and isn’t someone you would want to meet on a dark night. In reality, all of the performances are fine. It’s just the film is so poorly scripted and executed that even if they were excellent, they couldn’t save this from being a flop. Most of the characters you don’t even remember the names of by half way through…and that’s the ones who stay alive that long. Really, it was just a wave of faces and I had no attachment to any of them.

Confined to this sterile office space, "The Belko Experiment" descends into a meaningless orgy of murder.

All in all, this an utterly pointlessly over-the-top rendition of a scene that has been done over and over again in all genre’s of media; book, film, TV. It’s the generic kill or be killed set-up that you see in The Hunger Games and Battle Royale to name but two, but it’s nowhere near as cleverly done or as engaging as those two by far and the characterisations leave a lot to be desired. All in all, I found myself deeply and unforgivably bored by this film… and that is something I should not be when people’s heads keep exploding. I should be nervous, disgusted, anxious, tense… any of those words… but I wasn’t. I was undeniably bored.

Plot-wise, it’s The Hunger Games with an HR department. More overtly, it’s Battle Royale in the boardroom, right down to the exploding heads for non-compliance.

I honestly believe that the only people to find this even vaguely interesting will be the fourteen year old schoolboy or a sadist who gets off on watching heads explode. There’s nothing new here, nothing interesting here and it takes brutality and barbarism to such extremes that it loses sight of absolutely everything else; including decent story telling. It takes the cruel brutality to such a degree that it actually ends up feeling juvenile; as though the creators didn’t have the imagination or the script-writing ability to actually tell a story so they decided that a ton load of blood would make up for this failing.

The characters could have embodied traits of typical office drones and managers, turning the film into a savage black comedy. But those elements aren't developed beyond a point, making the movie's only selling point its excessive gore and violence.

If you hadn’t already realised this, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise to realise that this is an 18. It is extremely violent with close ups of realistic and bloody brutality; heads explode with blood and brains sprayed against the walls and other people, people are brutally murdered by having their necks snapped, their heads caved in or being executed in a scene with everyone fitting certain criteria kneeling on the floor before the CEO. It’s dark, depressing and really very grim. There is a lot of strong language including mother****er, s***, c***sucker and many others of fairly puerile and limited vocabulary range. With that in mind it really shouldn’t matter that a character or two are smoking pot or that there is vague sexual referencing. All in all, it’s an 18 because it is essentially torture porn with nothing to redeem it whatsoever. It deserves the 18. It also deserves burning.

Do I Recommend?

Even the most diehard gorehounds and Gunn supporters should give this stinker a pass.
No. This takes brutal violence to such a level that it loses any interest or attraction it might have had. The premise is interesting, but the way it is executed is unimaginative torture porn. I understand that there probably is a market for that – there are weird creeps everywhere – but I don’t think it deserved it’s $4.1 million or its spot of seventh at the box office. The vast majority of reviews I can see agree with me that this is a pile of dog do-do.

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Comments on this review

  • mikemelmak published 02/12/2017
    There is a market for this type of exploitative drivel but thanks for warning us!
  • bettyboo47 published 29/11/2017
    I love a good slating!!!
  • IzzyS published 29/11/2017
    Sounds disappointing. Nice review though.
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Product Information : The Belko Experiment (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Genre: Thriller

DVD Region: DVD

Classification: 18 years and over

Production Year: 2016

EAN: 5039036081368

Actor(s): Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, Josh Brener

Director(s): Greg McLean


Listed on Ciao since: 27/11/2017