A Corporate Battle Royale
The Belko Experiment went viral sometime in late 2016, early 2017 on social media primarily because of its interesting premise.
The film is set inside the building of an outsourced company, Belko, in Bogotá, Colombia. At the beginning of the workday, all local employees are redirected home by new security, leaving 80 homespun employees in the building. The building then goes into lockdown, leaving the employees confused and terrified. A disembodied voice over the PA commands the employees to kill 2 of their own or else – a social experiment, the voice says. Each homespun employee has a tracking device implanted inside their skull, with the alibi being that lots of kidnappings take place in Colombia and so the trackers help in locating them in these scenarios. But actually, the tracking device can be detonated at any time with the flick of a switch.
Over the course of the movie, the voice demands more killings to happen, igniting a moral divide between the employees of Belko. Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) debates with COO Barry (Tony Goldwyn), the former is an idealist, arguing that killing is not the solution, while the latter is a realist, thinking that not doing anything is worse than waiting to be killed.
Other major characters are Mike’s girlfriend Leandra (Adria Arjona), Wendell (John McGinley), and the new employee Dany (Melonie Diaz). Like Mike, Leandra believes that killing is not the solution, but is somewhat more of a realist. Wendell is a creepy guy in upper management with psychopathic tendencies and also has a crush on Leandra. Dany, on the other hand, isolates herself from the others when Belko goes into lockdown.
What I Liked
The Premise. The movie presents a thought-provoking, but very unlikely, ‘What if?’ scenario. It’s always very interesting to see how people react to non-ordinary situations like that presented in the movie. Will you hide? Will you kill? Seeing the scenario played out is cool to see, sort of like a corporate Battle Royale.
The Sub-Characters. Although The Belko Experiment makes it clear that the main characters are Mike, Leandra, and Barry by allocating a huge chunk of the screentime to them, the movie is chock-full of interesting and likeable characters. Before the start of the killings, we see the employees go about their everyday work life and interact with one another. The movie is successful in making us care for these characters. It’s a shame to see them die one by one.
What I Didn’t Like
Mike. The main character Mike is very idealistic – he does not like the idea of killing and tries to find ways in order to circumvent that. This leads him to try out a lot of things, oblivious that he has actually harmed some employees and caused the early death of some. It is very hard to root for Mike. Eventually, I began rooting for his foil, Barry, since Mike became way too annoying and unlikeable.
Lack of Creative Kills. The office setting lends itself to a lot of creative ways to kill. Yes, the movie definitely has some – paper cutter, tape dispenser – but the majority of non-tracker-bomb kills are done with guns and knives. With such an outrageous concept, you would think that the movie would have more creativity in its execution, no pun intended.
The Ending. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I feel that it’s a bit of a cop-out. Obviously, we want to know why the Belko employees are in the situation they are in, but the explanation is a bit ambiguous and rushed. I wish they could have elaborated on it a bit more. The ending lends itself to a sequel, though I personally don’t see it happening.
Should You Watch It?
Yes, definitely. The Belko Experiment is a nice popcorn flick. It blends horror and comedy well and has some likeable characters to root for. Except for the final bits of the movie and the main character Mike, I found the movie thoroughly enjoyable.
Caution : the movie is quite gory in some parts, showing the aftermath of an axe to the head, for example.
The Belko Experiment is rated 53% at Rotten Tomatoes. (It seems I’m in the 47.)