The Belko Experiment | Age Rating: 18 | Running Time: 89 minutes | Release Date: 21st April
Horror buffs get ready; James Gunn’s new addition to the genre is certainly a must watch for fans of head explosions and axe shots to the face. A combination of an office themed Battle Royal with gruesome scenes that show a similarity to the Saw franchise, The Belko Experiment doesn’t disappoint on the gore.
Gunn dives straight into the deep end, giving viewers 10 minutes of character-bonding and scene-setting before catapulting the audience into the first set of death scenes, which leaves six unlucky workers covered in their own slush puppie’d brains.
Fans of Michael Rooker will be somewhat disappointed by his lack of airtime as he is arguably one of the biggest names out of the entire cast; alongside John C. McGinley who unfortunately lacks any lines or any kind of character depth at all. Trailer-wise, Gunn and director Grey McLean were smart to show Rooker as he most probably reeled in some of the viewers from his performance as notorious Merle Dixon on AMCs The Walking Dead. However, it is fair to say that Rooker had as much airtime in the trailer as he did in the film – very little.
Classic horror movie kills are the bulk of The Belko Experiment; gun shots to the head in a sort of military execution style, knife attacks, and even Molotov cocktails make an appearance. If you’re one for the detailed, close-up gore shots, then McLean and Gunn don’t fail. There are many close-up shots of exploded heads and people being butchered, along with McGinley repeatedly taking an axe to the face.
Acting skills vary throughout the film, with some deaths being very realistic; Rooker took a spanner blow to the head in lightning speed, giving no time for the audience to process what happened, leaving us all holding our breath and our hearts as Rooker was left with a large crater in his skull and temporary amnesia, just before he slumped to the floor.
The sound team are definitely on their way to winning an award. Mixing scenes of panic and violence with opera music doesn’t sound like a good idea, but it was a bold move and turned out to be a match made in heaven; striking up resemblance towards the likes of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad.
As far as the plot goes, it seems like the office worker theme is tarnished by the lack of unusual deaths. The Belko Experiment looks to be a fresh take on films such as The Condemned, Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, with the twist being the white-collar workers in an average office building, however the only thing that brings back that twist is an almost embarrassing death-by-Sellotape dispenser near the end of the film.
The ending leaves mixed reactions; as an audience, we receive gratification as we see Mike (Gallagher Jr.) the hero as the last one standing, after killing his boss (Goldwin) and even killing the people responsible for the experiment using their own explosives. We think it ends with Mike leaving the Belko complex a free man, however it pans out to the reality of the situation. The last shot shows hundreds of screens featuring CCTV footage from what looks like all parts of the world in other Belko offices, enrolled in the same experiment we have just seen.