Described as Office Space meets Battle Royale, The Belko Experiment comes from the mind of James Gunn; the filmmaker responsible for bringing us one of the most offbeat and entertaining superhero movies of recent years with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Suitably, this indie horror-thriller is a ridiculously enjoyable oddity, full of head-popping gore, dark humour, and edge-of-your-seat tension.
The concept is ingenious: set in a Colombian high-rise complex, American office employees are forced to partake in a social experiment in which they must kill their colleagues or face the consequences. It doesn’t take long for divisions to form, with the higher management level and lower employees disagreeing on a way forward, and soon the office turns into an all out war zone complete with guns, axes, Molotov cocktails and cellotape holders.
What’s perhaps most surprising about James Gunn’s screenplay is actually how tense it is. It’s a high-concept idea which could easily get boring quite fast, but the writer does an excellent job of continually cranking up the stakes and the thrills right until the very last twist. The fact that the film pulls no punches when it comes to its bloody brutal depiction of violence, always finding new and different ways to dispatch of its characters, only makes it all the more shocking and memorable.
But as is often the case with Gunn’s work, where there’s action and horror, there’s plenty of laughs that aren’t too far behind either. In the case of ”Belko’ these are derived from the familiar location of the office environment and its various wildlife; somewhere most people will be familiar with. The fact that a lot of the characters and office politics are recognisable in the everyday gives the film a strange effect where, in some twisted way, you can’t help but imagine how you and your colleagues may react under similar circumstances.
The cast of actors in these roles are all pretty fantastic, with John C. McGinley being as hulking and terrifying as ever and John Gallagher Jr. proving to be a very successful heroic everman at the centre of the action. Add to the mix a soundtrack full of Spanish covers of pop hits such as Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive – another telltale sign that you’re watching a film from Gunn – and The Belko Experiment is b-movie goodness that will make you gasp, laugh and hide behind your hands. Seek it out.
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