Director: Greg McLean
Screenplay: James Gunn
Starring: John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Josh Brener, Michael Rooker
Runtime: 88 Minutes
Greg McLean’s filmography hasn’t really tread too far from his debut Wolf Creek, which was a nasty little slasher in the vein of 70s exploitation horror films depicting exotic foreign lands. But at the same time, he’s never quite been as unrestrained as he was allowed to be there. To wit, we have The Belko Experiment; a not entirely original horror thriller with a decent gimmick.
Said gimmick consisting of a sort of ‘Battle Royale’ that unfolds within a high-rise corporate office in Columbia, in which the participants of this office block are forced by a disembodied voice to murder one another in order to prevent more deaths. It’s simple enough although something that has been done better in multiple other productions.
But the secret weapon here is that the screenplay has been written by James Gunn of both ‘Troma’ fame and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Gunn’s character writing is what keeps most of the film above water. While there isn’t a great amount of background to be given to each of the many different characters, Gunn sets up their characteristics quickly and broadly enough to make each and every one of them a presence in their own right. It also helps that the likes of John Gallagher Jr, Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley, Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn are all on hand keep up the energy.
As they are little more than a stack of walking corpses for the film to gradually dismember, the film wastes no time after its set up in getting into the visceral violence of the premise. The violence is bloody and gleefully nasty if not all that inspired beyond a few key moments. It’s shot well and edited to a tight and concise length so that it never feels like it outstays its welcome.
The issue lies in the fact that its idea and setting might evoke so much more than it allows itself to focus on. There isn’t really a greater commentary to be mined other than the explicit rendering of the competitiveness of office work environments and faux-inspirational slogans manifesting as a literal bloodbath. An idea that is only hammered home by a heavy-handed yet satisfying sequence near the films end as characters cave each other’s skulls in with Tape Dispensers.
If the script were a little sharper, wittier or had more to say this could have left more of an impact. As it stands it’s a fun little genre distraction with a neat hook and decent execution.