James Gunn And Greg Mclean's 'The Belko Experiment' Is A Bloody Good Time [TIFF Review]

James Gunn has been tied up with Marvel movies for the past couple of years, but somewhere in there, he found the time to write and produce The Belko Experiment. Greg McLean, the Aussie filmmaker behind the nasty Wolf Creek films, takes the helm, and the result is a simple, entertaining horror-thriller that doesn't take itself too seriously. The Belko Experiment

Angie Han's The Belko Experiment Review

The Belko Experiment opens with an another day at the Bogotá office of Belko Industries. Employees are annoyed at the unusually heightened security, which has resulted in some of their colleagues getting turned at the gate, but otherwise, it's just another weekday. We meet several of the 80 or so office drones, including tough boss Barry (Tony Goldwyn), mild-mannered Mike (John Gallagher Jr.), practical Leandra (Adria Arjona), creepy Wendell (John C. McGinley), new girl Dany (Melonie Diaz), and perpetually stoned Marty (Sean Gunn).

Then a mysterious voice comes on over the intercom to issue an ultimatum: Belko employees must kill two of their own in the next half-hour, "or else." Initially, the workers assume it's just a nasty prank. But once the half-hour is up, the mysterious powers that be kill four of the Belko employees. The building goes on total lockdown, with impenetrable metal sheets covering every exit and window, and it becomes apparent the workers' every move is being watched. The voices issue their next assignment: 30 Belko employees must die in the next two hours, or 60 will be killed.

At first, the Belko employees aren't quite sure how to react. Panic sets in and arguments break out about what should be done. Mike calls for reason and decency, trying to come up with a solution to get the Belko team out of the situation without killing 30 people, while Barry argues (with some reluctance) that the most practical move is to kill 30 people so 30 more can live. Needless to say, it's not long before bloody mayhem breaks out in the halls of Belko Industries.

The Belko Experiment Review

The basic premise of The Belko Experiment — put a bunch of people in a confined space, tell them to kill or be killed, and then sit back and see what happens — isn't terribly new, but the office setting gives it an extra zing. Belko Industries' aggressively bland slogan is "Bringing the world together," and the official pitch has something to do with helping American companies do business in South America. But it's really just a stand-in for every dull office job you've ever had, full of meaningless busywork and petty politics with just enough cool co-workers to keep you going. If you've ever worked one of those, The Belko Experiment might feel all too relatable.

But the generic nature of Belko Industries also extends to its employees. Gallagher, last seen playing second fiddle to Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 10 Cloverfield Lane, proves more than capable of shouldering an everyman lead role, and Goldwyn and McGinley are well cast as the alpha dogs who seem just a little too okay with carrying out orders to murder. But countless others are never really fleshed out beyond their initial descriptors, so it's hard to get too invested in their trials. Moreover, there's no real thematic or emotional depth to The Belko Experiment. A final scene that attempts to explain what we just saw feels unnecessary and adds nothing to the conversation. It's hard to care about anything that happens in The Belko Experiment really.

Then again, the parade of gore can be its own reward. The Belko Experiment has lots of fun getting rid of all these employees. Some die quickly, and some die slowly; some die through more conventional means and others in more creative ways. By the end, both the living and the dead are caked in blood. Through it all, the film maintains a dark sense of humor — it's not laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it does give you permission to howl with glee at all the carnage. The Belko Experiment isn't much more than a good time at the theater, but it isn't really trying to be and doesn't really have to be.

/Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10