THE BELKO EXPERIMENT
The probable starting point for The Belko Experiment was Saw (2004), which features the serial killer Jigsaw devising a series of fiendish death traps designed to drive people to moral extremes. There were a great many horror films that came out riffing on the basic premise of the Saw films and putting a group of people through torturous traps. Even beyond that, the last few years have seen a number of films featuring brutal elimination games, most notably with the popularity of The Hunger Games (2012) and The Purge (2013) films. I kept being reminded of Stuart Hazeldines Exam (2009) in which a group of applicants for a job are locked in a room and asked to work out what the question is whereupon the situation mounts to an increasing desperation and outright violence amongst the contenders. When it came to the end revelation about the experiments, I also kept thinking back to the premise of death traps as a psychological test we had in The Maze Runner (2014).
Before you sit down to watch, the very concept of The Belko Experiment is black satire. On the other hand, very little of this dark humour translates onto the screen. The way that Gunn and Mclean approach it comes out more as something akin to Battle Royale (2000). McLean relishes the opportunity to have the screen drenched in blood as the employees take to butchering one another with their bare hands. That said, there are surprisingly few of the novelty deaths we get in Battle Royale I would have thought there would have been enormous potential in a film like this to show how people manage to turn ordinary office equipment into improvised weapons but, beyond a couple of novelty uses of a stapler and a guillotine blade, this is something the film lets slip by. The script even handily supplies the employees with a small arms locker and thereafter has them simply shooting each other to death. It is a case of the amusement of the idea being far stronger than the delivery.
James Gunns script never does too much with the basic premise beyond setting it up the climactic twist is one that is maddening in its lack of any real answers. The characters seem merely statistics we are given a cursory romantic plot that feels unnecessary but there is little that has you rooting for particular characters to survive. You are drawn by the films premise but there feels little else either in terms of engaging characters or plotting twists that keeps it going after that point other than watching the hit count of deaths escalate with bloody abandon.
James Gunn started working at Troma Films, co-writing Tromeo & Juliet (1996) and Troma founder Lloyd Kaufmans biography All I Need to Know About Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger (1998), which became the basis of Terror Firmer (1999). Gunn graduated to a screenwriter of A-list films such as Scooby-Doo (2002), Dawn of the Dead (2004) and Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004). Gunn made his directorial debut with the alien monster movie homage Slither (2006), the superhero with no powers comedy Super (2010), the Beezel segment of Movie 43 (2013) and the Marvel Comics adaptation Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and its sequel Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (2017).
Greg McLean first appeared with the harrowing Australian Backwoods Brutality film Wolf Creek (2005). McLean subsequently went onto make the incredible killer crocodile film Rogue (2007), Wolf Creek 2 (2013), the ghost story The Darkness (2016) and the non-genre survival film Jungle (2017). In addition, McLean has also produced Crawlspace (2012) and the mini-series spinoff of Wolf Creek (2016).