Eighty Americans work in a high rise building in a remote part of Bogota, Colombia. While the location is odd, the office setting is just like any other office. On one seemingly normal day the employees head into work where new security men check them in. Shortly into the day a strange voice comes over the intercom. All the employees have been sealed into their workplace, and the voice is commanding the employees to kill each other in order to survive. Who will kill, and who will be killed?
Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, Rogue) makes a return to what he does best with The Belko Experiment. While he made a rather unsuccessful attempt to dive into the supernatural sub-genre of horror with The Darkness, his home is definitely in the more bloody thrillers that are funnier than they should be. Writer James Gunn (Slither, Guardians of the Galaxy) also knows how to take terrifying situations and inject humor into them. Together McLean and Gunn make the perfect comedic thriller duo. In The Belko Experiment, Gunn and McLean introduce us to the mundane life of office workers, complete with all the personalities one would expect to find. As someone who works in the typical cubical office setting by day, I can relate to much of what is shown, and it was hilarious. When looking at the people you work with every day for weeks (or even years) on end you think you know them, but do you really know how they would react in stressful situations? Gunn and McLean bring this idea to life by throwing the employees of Belko into a fight for survival, and it definitely shows how different people can be when their own life is on the line. This concept is almost like a mashup of Office Space and Battle Royale, resulting in much slaughter and hilarity.
While there are a number of characters involved in this film and not a lot of time before things get intense, all of the characters are well acted and still feel complete. Even the ones that are not on screen for long feel like whole characters so you understand who they are and what their motivations are. While the entire cast is enjoyable, there are two people that make this movie great. The first is John Gallagher Jr. (Hush, 10 Cloverfield Lane) as Mike Milch. Mike is kind of a loser, but he is also caring and one of the few individuals that puts others before himself, even when things go from bad to worse. Gallagher has been in a few horror films over the past year, and I continue to enjoy every performance because he is able to completely transform into his character. The second actor that I love in this film is John C. McGinley (Office Space, Identity) as Wendell Dukes. Wendell is kind of the office creep, and his demeanor does not improve when the killing starts. What makes McGinley’s performance stand out is the amount of humor he brings to the role. He may be completely psychotic, but he has fun while doing it! Both of these actors are amazing, but so is virtually every other actor. There is one other character that I was disappointed with not because of their acting, but because the character gets killed off much too early on in the film. The Belko Experiment is a great example of the phrase “there are no small parts.”
This is a film that has really fun practical effects. You know there is going to be butchery as employees and friends begin killing each other. Most of the effects that jump out at you are ones involving injuries to the head. There is a bashed in skull where there isn’t really a break in the skin, but there is clearly a dent in the head that looks grotesque and realistic. Another scene shows a close up of the back of someone’s head that has been blown away. The head, the open wound, and the close up of all the gross little bits look superb. While most of the effects are impressive, the same cannot be said for the CGI. In actuality, there are only a couple shots done in CGI that create the outside of the high rise. It is obvious a minuscule amount of the budget went into creating the exterior, which I didn’t mind until you see people walking outside the building on what is clearly a green screen. It takes away from what is otherwise a well done and intense film.
Of the horror films to come out so far in 2017 most have either been greatly lacking in a good story or they have been amazing, but more on the serious side of horror. The Belko Experiment gives audiences a delightful amount of carnage and mayhem in a humorous office setting. Most people can relate to one or more of the characters in the film because they have similar jobs and work with similar personalities. When thinking about the film my only true criticisms are the terrible use of CGI and the fact that an early favorite among the employees (or at least one of my favorites) gets killed off too quickly. Otherwise, I can say this is the kind of horror film that makes you gasp and laugh in turn, resulting in an exciting experience you won’t soon forget.
OVERALL RATING: 8/10