New Horror Releases: The Belko Experiment (2017) - Reviewed

An ultraviolent pinwheel of ideas, Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment paints a gruesome tapestry of survival in a mass shooter world that moonlights as a post political commentary and a scathing refutation of counterfeit civility. A brilliant, if Americanized premise is undermined by a shallow, predictable script to deliver a flawed, but occasionally brilliant social satire. 

Employees of an American corporation in Bogota' are imprisoned in a brutal game of last man standing. James Gunn's script briskly moves through the initial setup, giving the viewer characters to root for and characters to malign. That's the major flaw. At its base, this is human instinct: predation, survival, and charity, boiled down to the basest examples in throwaway characters of which even their names are difficult to remember. The genius is in the pageantry of self-serving violence. Employees are herded into the lobby like cattle while opportunists strike from the shadows before retreating to the sanctuary of their cubicles. A few gory kill sequences overstay their welcome; firmly cementing the blackness of this would be comedy through McLean's patented violent bravado. 

Luis David Sanas's cinematography is the standout. Wonderful compositions of pastel blue and slick reds drench the screen, particularly in the film's jaw dropping lobby sequence. Tight close ups frame the desperation while tracking shots follow employees as they struggle for purchase against rampaging active shooters, a touch that may hit close to home for some viewers. There are a few heavy handed scenes that draw everything into the political arena, but these are quickly resolved by yet another bloody murder, symbolizing the hyper lack of focus that connects the film. There are wonderful ideas presented by the framing of the combatants and precious snippets of important dialogue that evaporate into a cloud of viscera before the viewer has time to digest them, and perhaps this is with intent. 

Blumhouse has discovered a gold mine formula. The Belko Experiment had a budget of 5 million which it will easily recover. Despite my misgivings, this is a fun horror film and genre lovers will find much to admire, including an instant sequel setup. At its core, this is a familiar, apocalypse level scenario wearing an American corporate skin and its devilish mischief is a wonder to times. 

Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays

In theaters now, The Belko Experiment is a glossy, bloody endeavor that dances around a wealth of ideas, but never fully commits. Lovers of survival films will find the villains and heroes they know and love everywhere within the Belko building's murderous halls, but sadly, there's not much else. However, if you're looking for a decent horror romp with a few laughs, above average camera work, and a thrilling, heart stopping climax, this is worth the price of admission.

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-Kyle Jonathan