Are you a fan of battle royale style movies, but uncomfortable that Battle Royale and The Hunger Games both are focused on the brutal deaths of minors? If so, then I have the movie for you. May I present to you The Belko Experiment. Written by James Gunn and directed by Greg McLean, The Belko Experiment trades the wilderness full of kids in for an office building full of adults. In this movie, you’ll recognize notable faces like John C. McGinley, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, someone who kind of looks like Ethan Suplee, and many more that you know you’ve seen them somewhere before, but spend much of the movie trying to figure out where. Yes, it’s a fairly low budget movie, but is it any good? Well, that’s not really a simple answer, and depends on what you want out of the movie.
The movie starts with the boring “let’s get to know all the characters that are about to die” section. I guess this is to try to build a connection with the characters you’re about to watch get brutally murdered, but it doesn’t really do that. All it does is establish the couple of main characters, who are most likely to survive, and who the villains of the office are, foreshadowing some big showdown. It’s not like we really need this character establishment as a starting point, as everything learned here could just have easily been introduced after the building goes on lockdown. There’s not enough time to get to develop an attachment to the characters, so why bother. Yes, I know it’s silly to complain about fleshing out characters, but getting to the main plot of the movie faster would have been better. It’s highly unlikely anyone watching is going to become so attached to any character that they burst into tears when they die. I mean, this isn’t the final season of The Office, and we are torn by the possibility that the last two are going to be Jim and Pam, and wondering if Jim will take his own life so that she may live.
After a short time, the building is finally put on lockdown and some unknown entity comes over the speakers and says that they first have to kill someone in the office. I liked how they played this portion of the movie. There’s a nice split of people that are trying to play it off as some practical joke, and others that are taking precautions that this may be real. But most people are really just confused by what is going on. This section probably adds more relevant characterization than the introduction did. You have one group trying to arm themselves, just in case things turn violent. You have one group that is trying to get a message to the outside world to be rescued. But then, people start dying.
The people dying part isn’t really a spoiler, as it’s the entire selling point of the movie. After people start dying in truly gruesome ways, the real action picks up. Finally, we have the tension and the gore that we were promised. And it continues at a frantic pace, all the way up to the fairly predictable conclusion. And it is really predictable. If you’ve been paying attention to the movie, you can probably guess early on who all survives. And this isn’t a knock on predictability. Sometimes the predictable outcome is that way because it’s what makes sense with the story. To do something for the shock would just confuse people. Sometimes predictability is like a comfort food. When you order your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant, or something similar at a new place, you want to have an idea of what is coming. The ending of the movie falls into the latter. It’s not that going with a surprise at the end would not have made sense, it’s just that the audience would probably feel better if you went with what they expect.
I wouldn’t call The Belko Experiment a good movie, but I did enjoy my time with it. It accomplished what it set out to do, nothing more, nothing less. As of this writing, you can watch it on HBO Go/Now. It’s probably worth 90 minutes of your time, one night, if you’re this sort of thing.