The Belko Experiment – Review (Toronto International Film Festival)

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The Belko Experiment is the sort of rambunctious horror film that rides on its ability to transmit psychological unease, the skin-crawling feeling of a character’s head exploding at any moment, their only means of survival is to brutally murder other innocents. A real horror show of Battle Royale flavoured Darwinism asking the question, would you kill your fellow co-workers to save yourself? Bludgeon or suffocate that new hire to see your family again?

Directed by Greg McLean and written by James Gunn (Guardians of The Galaxy), this genre picture isn’t without a seasoned team of filmmakers. McLean helmed the wickedly vicious Wolf Creek back in 2005, while James Gunn reinvigorated zombie pandemonium by penning the poignant Dawn of the Dead remake over a decade ago. Although The Belko Experiment isn’t nearly as effective as those two modern classics (yes, as a horror enthusiast, it’s important to note the titles that stand out, even if they aren’t the next Rosemary’s Baby or The Exorcist) it still manages to entertain, and that’s no small praise for a modest horror entry these days.

The story is paper thin, 80 Americans go to work at a strange Colombian office building one morning. Just as their day begins, a loud voice sounds off through an intercom, demanding the poor saps kill a certain amount of their fellow employees or face the consequences  — death by an pebble sized explosive lodged in their heads.

It’s fun to watch these guys unravel as they both walk the gore drenched stairwells and glossy lobbies of Belko Industries, saving friends and eliminating the weakest links.

Indeed, it’s completely ridiculous and often unintentionally (ok, maybe intentionally) hilarious to watch these everyday folks scream and claw their way through a corporate maze, running top speed or hiding under a desk as if that will keep their brains from draping the walls.

Recommended:  Scream Review

The cast is modest with 10 Cloverfield Lane’s John Gallagher Jr. starring as morally sound nice guy, Mike Milch. Tony Goldwyn (Scandal) plays the once well-mannered exec, turned psychopath bent on survival Barry Norris. It’s fun to watch these guys unravel as they both walk the gore drenched stairwells and glossy lobbies of Belko Industries, saving friends and eliminating the weakest links. However, the plot sizzles into familiar genre territory, which hinders the fearful premise and never reaches its full potential as an effective gusher, more so flatlining near the middle where the guns come out and experimental, goofy death scenes are long past. Just too many exploding heads and gunshot wounds, with 80 people slated to meet a gruesome fate, imagine the creative homicides we could have seen!

Horror fans will dig it, as well as audiences who lust for a cutting edge with their popcorn, but The Belko Experiment relies too much on stale ideas, never quite realizing that shock and awe glory we felt with the aforementioned Dawn of the Dead and Wolf Creek.

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About Nicholas Olsen

Nicholas Olsen is a journalist operating out of Toronto, Ontario. He has held a passion for movies ever since his father showed him Pulp Fiction back in the late 90s. Since then he's been devouring films whenever he can, using his background in writing to appreciate the arts on a critical level.

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