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Soulless corporate drones

"The Belko Experiment" tries and fails to present satirical social commentary

By Sawyer Jackson
On April 19, 2017

 

No matter what movie you see this year, you’ll at least be able to say, “Well, it was more pleasant than ‘The Belko Experiment’.”

A shockingly dull and cheap-looking film, “The Belko Experiment” is a horrific endeavor wrapped up in disgusting nihilism that is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. Not since “The Purge” has satirical cinema felt so idiotic and unnecessary.

“The Belko Experiment” is a film that wants to make you think and laugh, but all it will end up doing is making you wish you could get home to take a shower as quickly as possible so you can wash away the abhorrent stench it leaves in its wake.

It may only be March, but “The Belko Experiment” has a legitimate shot at being the worst film of 2017.

Set in an obviously CGI office building in Bogotá, Colombia, owned by the titular Belko Industries, the hapless employees go about their day business as usual.

Then the building enters a lockdown and a voice over the intercom tells the 80 people inside that in two hours 30 of them must die or 60 of them will be killed at random. Initially, the employees shrug it off as a prank, but when several people’s heads start exploding, it becomes a fight for survival as one faction desperately tries to find a way out through non-violent methods, while another decides to do whatever it takes to survive.

From this plot description, you’d think that “The Belko Experiment” is an intense, tightly-paced thriller that never lets up. However, before we get to the crassly insensitive bloodshed, the film spends its first half clumsily setting up its characters, who have no discernible personalities other than broad generalizations like “everyman lead,” “love interest,” or “bad guy,” or just small idiosyncrasies that amount to nothing.

For example, it’s established early on one of the characters has an ant farm full of fire ants at his desk. You would think that this would come back up again later, perhaps someone would meet their end by these tiny insects.

No, it’s shown once and never mentioned or seen again.

But even with such one-dimensional characters comprising the cast, it doesn’t stop the killing from being less stomach-churning.

From the halfway mark to the end, “The Belko Experiment” is a sickening exercise in depraved, savage violence. If you’re idea of a good time at the movies isn’t to watch innocent people beg and weep for their lives before being violently murdered, then this isn’t for you. I can imagine this film’s fans rushing to defend it as satire, however, that doesn’t make it good satire.

I understand what kind of message director Greg McLean (“Wolf Creek”) and writer/producer James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) were going for.

When the chips are down, civilized people will revert to their basic instincts to ensure their own survival. But the thing is we’ve seen this premise done before and in much better films, so it’s not like this is a novel idea.

Speaking of films with similar premises, “The Belko Experiment” will make you appreciate how films like “Battle Royale” and “The Hunger Games” executed this concept far better. Those films had clearly-defined worlds and characters who you could care for amidst their terrible predicaments.

This film, on the other hand, is the exact opposite.

I couldn’t tell you why any of these people would work for a shady corporation set in the outskirts of Colombia.

I couldn’t tell what Belko Industries’ actual industry was – it’s frustratingly vague and given little to no explanation.

When the main villain’s motivation is revealed at the end, it was so nonsensical that I can imagine professional social scientists laughing at its stupidity.

What the filmmakers behind "The Hunger Games" had the good sense to do was set the film's death arena in a forest.

Just imagine if “The Hungers Games” was set in a school or college campus instead of the wilderness. There would be a massive public outcry with critics accusing the creative team of exploiting actual school shootings.

We live in a world where people have been shot, stabbed, and blown up in schools, movie theaters, churches, clubs, and yes, even offices.

If you want to know if McLean and Gunn care at all about being sensitive of real-life tragedies, there is a scene where people with children under the age of 18 are put on one side of the room while people over the age of 60 are put on the other side. All the individuals over 60 get down on their knees, facing the wall with their hands behind their heads as they are shot, execution style, in the back of their heads.

This entire scene absolutely reeks of Holocaust undertones, and no amount of ironic, diegetic music can change that.

This is an ugly, ugly film. There is no problem with graphic violence on screen but it at least has to have a purpose or be entertaining. “The Belko Experiment” accomplishes neither of those things.

Its attempts at humor fall so flat that nobody in my audience laughed once. Not once.

It wants to be a satire on office culture and a commentary on human nature, but both fall flat on their pretentious faces.

This film did not make me laugh. It did not make me think. It did not frighten me. All it did was make me wish I was watching something else instead of wasting my time watching this vile dreck.

This is an embarrassment for everyone involved and made worse for its groan-inducing sequel-bait ending. I shudder at the mere thought of this becoming a franchise.

If it doesn’t, then I’ll have more faith in humanity than the filmmakers ever could.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10

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