Ricky's Film Reviews

Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases

The Belko Experiment

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In a twisted social experiment, 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.

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Cast

John Gallagher – Mike

Adria Arjona – Leandra Florez

Tony Goldwyn – Barry Norris

Melonie Diaz – Dany Wilkins

John C. McGinley – Wendell Dukes

Rusty Schwimmer – Peggy Displasia

Josh Brener – Keith McLure

David Del Rio – Roberto Jerez

Michael Rooker – Bud Melks

Sean Gunn – Marty Espenscheid

David Dastmalchian – Alonso Crane

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Human Resources

The Belko Experiment has made it instantly into my top ten of 2017, what a fantastic little gem this is.
Crazy.
Funny.
Terrifying.
Gory.
Shocking.
Feasible but unbelievable. There are many words I could use to paint you a picture of this one, but you’re probably best off seeing it yourself.

I hadn’t seen a single trailer for this movie before watching it. No posters. No TV coverage. No interviews, no talk, nothing. Normally when a movie lacks advertisment, I find it shockingly bad (a-hem, Catch Me Daddy, 2014). And it fits doesn’t it – if it’s shit, it ain’t getting mentioned. This isn’t me being bias either; it’s simple observation that films so low in quality or lacking A-list names don’t get a mention. And I had seen nothing about The Belko Experiment – but found myself loving every minute.

WIN.

Strange though, how this was a low-budget style flick involving a handful of well-known actors. Sitting in the auditorium on Friday night, I could’ve sworn I’d gone to see one of those ‘randoms’ starring unfamiliar people (SnowmageddonMeteor Storm, Arctic Blast, etc.) but the second McGinley stepped in, my eyes widened. And then Brener popped up – instant familiarity. Excellent. Perhaps this unheard of movie would show some promise. This is workplace horror at its best, providing a claustrophobic environment and filling it with a blend of dark comedy and and disgusting voilence, which are used by a dynamic bunch of actors to play out a terrifyingly bizarre story. It appears the first place you’d expect everyone to act professionally is the last place to follow the rules..

the-belko-experiment-review The Belko Experiment kicks off nicely and wastes no time in character introductions as each member of the company is gradually brought to light.
First up is Leandra (Arjona):

She’s attractive, sassy, flirty. And banging one of the male members of staff – obviously. One or two scenes between her and her beau make cringeworthy viewing; the classic, “I love you so much!” moaned through tears, even though the pair have clearly only been tapping each other for a matter of weeks and their relationship is in very early stages.
Still, Leandra is a strong character and her sassy personality evolves into sheer rage towards the end of the movie which makes a darkly funny watch. And by god, does she get her own back on a particular member of staff.

But does she make it to the end credits?…

14837129352the-belko-experiment-adria-arjona-as-leandra-flores Keith (Brener) is the company brains. And his first appearance triggered familiarity, I knew I’d seen this guy somewhere before. This was the moment I realised The Belko Experiment might not be as low-budget as I thought. Brener brings the classic know-all character, the smart kid who gets on your tits with his boundless intelligence – who also has his uses when discussing strategy. A familiar face which soon turns from bespectacled to buggered when Keith falls victim to a nasty shock.

But will he survive?…

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Peggy (Schwimmer) makes a very effective addition, being an older female. I liked this. I’m no feminist but god it was great to have a middle-aged female in such an aggressive, slightly macho film. It splits the dynamics brilliantly to have her as part of the cast – like plonking Helen Mirren in the middle of Fast and Furious.
Bubbly disposition and constantly beaming face, she is the classic ‘always chirpy’ office employee who acts as mother hen to a few of the others.

But surely such a warming woman won’t get burnt amongst the carnage?…

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“Carl from Ghost!” I thought, the second this one appeared on screen. God, this guy gave me one of my first major boners as a child (that scene where he removes his shirt in front of Demi Moore).
Yes – Goldwyn as militant company director Barry concluded for me that this was certainly no ‘random’ movie (however leathery he looked). And by Christ, does he bring it. The man is like a salivating hungry wolf in a Ralph Lauren suit as he seizes control of the entire Belko situation, taking it upon himself to make a few life-changing (and life-ending) decisions. As Barry charges through the office block wielding weapons and ticking off a mental list of the ‘expendables’, an air of sheer dread hangs over every department. There’s a fantastic tension here as the heat – and blood – rises fast.

But he’s company director and in charge of the situation – he can’t die.
Can he?…

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You also have the office homosexual (win), the indian lady in a headscarf, a woman in a wheelchair, and the Hungarian HR manager. This is equal opportunities televised, and is one of the elements of The Belko Experiment that makes it more original – at at times amusing – to watch.

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There’s Always One

It’s the same in every office (or at least 8 out of 10 offices) – there’s always one. Always one difficult employee.
One person who takes it upon his or herself to make their colleagues lives as dull or as miserable as possible. They can’t help it, it’s just the way they are. I myself have experienced this in various places I’ve worked; I’ve dealt with know-all girls who thrived off making themselves part of other people’s conversations or tasks, gossip queens who loved a good bitching sesh – in front of the colleagues they were bitching about, even older people who should have matured but still have an attitude fault and find at least two hours within the working day to be a dedicated arsehole.
Still, it’s just the way they are.

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This is why watching Victoria (Kristina Lilley) stomp through the centre department of Belko made me smirk with familiarity. Totally unfamiliar actress with limited screen time, and yet she made a massive impact because of how real her character was. The woman portrays an employee so tightly-wound that even I wanted to smack her. Brilliant stuff.

What makes The Belko Experiment work so superbly is the sense of dread and panic it radiates. A scene right at the beginning of the movie triggers this sense: it sees a random woman enter the company building (presumably having arrived at Belko for some sort of appointment).
An unfamiliar man’s voice announces over the tannoy that the slaying must commence.
And suddenly gigantic external metal shutters begin sliding up to cover all entrances, exits and windows.
The woman who has arrived in good faith looks at the receptionist – turns – and sprints for the front doors. High heels clicking, the shocked female looks after number one as she goes to exit as quickly as possible.

Does she make it through the front door before this shutter rises?…

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Untitled

Outside the building the camera zooms out and rises steadily to give a panoramic view of Belko headquarters.
BANG,
BANG,
BANG,
BANG.
..the employes’ fates are sealed – literally – as blocks of metal cover every window and engulf the building.

Superb. I sat there with just one reaction: “WTF”.
The nastiness of what was unfolding blended with just how feasible the plot was kept me hooked on the screen, I didn’t want to miss a second of this. It was just too weird.
I think this is what Hollywood lacks in nowadays: stories that mix the unbelievable with the believable. Plots that would never happen – but could. And decent writers to bring these to life. I’m glad to say The Belko Experiment wins on all these levels, delivering a real shocker.

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Disciplinary

So what went wrong with this movie?

The only negative of The Belko Experiment was its slightly dull undercurrent, its structure which veered away from the excitement of your standard Hollywood blockbuster. It ran like a television drama for most of its time (a very late night one), and the low budget was obvious too with a bland set and many unfamiliar actors. Slightly shabby there. It isn’t the type of movie to grab your attention immediately either with the opening scene looking like something from a Ford Focus advert; slightly foggy screen showing a car snaking its way up the gravel drive of a shiny building.. but stick with it.

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You may come away disappointed if you start watching The Belko Experiment with high expectations. Its plot is not overly involving like other stories, and it’s a game of ‘who’s next?’ as an office block becomes a murderous free-for-all. Like letting a butcher run around an abattoir with a meat cleaver, it all blurs in to one big blood-splatter.

Reasoning is an issue, with some of the choices made by Wendell and his ‘sidekick’ colleagues being just plain ridiculous. The boss-employee relationship becomes farcical too and almost far-fetched, with any morality being put through the shredder instantly.

It’s almost as though the entire attack was planned by the company director..

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Parallel Chipping

The whole ‘head chip’ concept made an entertaining watch. Slightly far-fetched, but then that’s Hollywood for you. The story goes that each employee gets chipped when they start working for Belko HQ. Basically, instead of signing contracts with HR and taking part in an induction (the norm), each newbie gets the back of his or her head sliced open. A chip placed inside. And sewn up again.
Gross. And uncomprehendable. Unless the story is set in a parallel world, which would be the perfect setting for this movie. I wonder if the parallel universe theme was what the producers were basing it around..? Like The Purge (2013); same world – just slightly altered with different rules.

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Those viewers who are grossed out easily, be warned – the scene where Mike storms into a rest room clutching a blade is unpleasant. Even I felt slightly queasy as he goes at himself trying to dislodge his chip. I think my stomach became parallel at the sight of this.

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Employees butchering each other in stairwells.
Instead of “hold the door!” it’s a case of “put your head between the doors”.
The canteen becomes a bloodbath.
And office procedures are non-existant as the place becomes a murderous free-for-all.

The Belko Experiment is one hell of a twisted movie and turns everyday life on its head by changing the rat race of full-time office work into a rat trap. Its winning element has to be this idea of a seemingly normal place of business becoming total carnage, a workplace you’d usually feel moderately secure in turning dangerous and not letting you go.
And by god, of all the movies I’ve seen involving violent actions The Belko Experiment wins first prize for alternative use of a sticky tape dispenser. I didn’t know whether to laugh out loud or gasp in horror.

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Ever had a shit day at the office?
You ain’t seen nothing yet.

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This entry was posted on May 28, 2017 by .
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