The Belko Experiment
Released in 2013, Would You Rather, a thriller starring Jeffrey Combs and Sasha Grey, proposed that non-violent dinner guests would be more than willing to snuff and mutilate each other if offered a big enough incentive. In 1981, dissidents being rounded up and hunted for sport willingly turned on fellow captives in the movie Turkey Shoot. Both Battle Royale and Hunger Games used similar scenarios where morality was second-guessed for the chance of self-preservation.
In The Belko Experiment, however, a company whose vague purpose is to facilitate American workers who’ve relocated to Bogota, Columbia, also serves as a shadow operation to evaluate the extent which people will be willing to go when directed to kill one another.
Written and produced by James Gunn (the guy who wrote Slither, Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead and Guardians of the Galaxy), and co-starring his younger brother Sean Gunn, this film is set in a maximum security high rise that’s isolated off the main drag, where upon arrival, its employees were tagged with a tracking implant due to the prospect of being abducted, or so they are led to believe.
Only permitting foreign workers entry, Columbian nationals are sent home on this particular day as an anonymous announcer informs the 80 employees that within the next half hour, unless they kill two of their co-workers, four will be eliminated by remote control. Assured by management that this is just some violent prank, nothing is done. The result is a panic among the 76 that remain alive!
So, the debate begins…
Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn from Scandal), as the head honcho, believes doing whatever the mysterious voice asks them to do will in the long run save lives. Which doesn’t sit all that well with Mike (John Gallagher Jr. of 10 Cloverfield Lane), who is shocked that his office romance with Leandra doesn’t sway her from agreeing with Harry. And so it goes until the next demand. It would seem all it takes to turn someone murderous is to make it personal.
Back in college, I took a course in logic, and one of the questions presented went something like this: You are taken at gunpoint and led into a room where two machines stand. Each has a red button and you are instructed to push one of the buttons. One button destroys all life on the planet, the other one kills all the Jews (or the blacks, or the gays – choose your minority). If you refuse, you will be shot, and the next person will be brought in to choose, and so on, until someone makes the decision. What do you do?
I knew immediately that the correct decision was, regardless of personal safety, you destroy both machines, or at least damage them, so that no one after you can push either button.
Yet, there was actually a discussion initiated by some in the classroom as to “the common good.” Delusions have a way of taking hold in a crisis, which is what happens to Sean Gunn’s character, Crazy Marty, who we first see on the roof smoking pot even though he knows he can be randomly drug tested. He convinces himself that everything that’s happening is a mass hallucination spread by something in the water cooler.
Untethered by background filler, The Belko Experiment is essentially all gristle as demands increase the carnage ‘round every turn.
I saw this movie in the company of some forty retarded men who screamed their support for various characters, offering up their own insights along the way. This is why I do not exclusively attend press screenings; some movies cry out for audience reactions!
At one point Michael Rooker gets his head bashed in with a wrench, and someone commented, “Will ya look at that man’s head!”
This field trip was comprised of people regularly ignored. The characters onscreen were being segregated into groupings designated by those who had loved ones behind, or by age or by who looked better, dressed more appropriately, etc., and this audience could relate to that!
The Belko Experiment is THE MOST thought provoking movie as far as these guys were concerned: bona fide, certified, smoke-a-fide!
“Set the building on fire!” the suggestion rang out! And, well, that would certainly put the city on notice with some smoke billowing up! And those behind these tests wouldn’t want their surveillance to get destroyed, meaning they’d have to start from scratch for the next group to be tested.
But one guy, way in the back, GOT IT RIGHT!
“Blow the goddamn building up! Youse all gonna die anyhow!”
A lone voice of logic. A giant among the others. Unfortunately, as usual, nobody on screen was listening!