Needless to say, this movie is not for everyone. The Belko Experiment is not by any means an intellectual or necessarily thought-provoking film, but rather an hour and a half of bloody, gory, action-packed fun, done right. Set in a high-rise office building in Colombia, Belko is the story of 80 Americans working for Belko Industries who are forced to decide whether to kill or be killed in a brutally simple social experiment. It’s almost the kind of movie where you can turn your brain off and mindlessly enjoy the action in all its blood-spattered glory, but it does successfully elicit some real emotions from the viewer.
Belko wastes no time on lengthy exposition, but very neatly establishes the hierarchy of the workers and their relationships with one another in just a matter of minutes. We’re quickly introduced to a multitude of characters, namely: Leandra (Adria Arjona), the takes-no-shit type, Michael Milch (John Gallagher Jr.), the kinda doofy guy who’s also Leandra’s boyfriend, Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn), the straight-laced COO, and Dany Wilkins (Melonie Diaz), who’s starting her first day. The movie knows what it is, and gets to the point immediately. Only minutes into the workday, a voice comes over the intercom instructing all employees to kill 2 of their co-workers in the next 30 minutes, or face repercussions. With that, metal shutters encase the entire building, sealing everyone inside. Wary, but still convinced this is some sort of elaborate prank, the employees gather in the main lobby, where they try to remain calm. That is until several employees’ heads explode, making the severity of the situation very apparent. The voice over the intercom gives another command, requiring that 30 employees are killed within the next 2 hours, or 60 will be terminated. The employees quickly separate into two groups: those who are willing to kill in order to save themselves, and those who are not willing murder innocent people under any circumstances. Tension builds between the groups until the action comes to a head and each employee is forced into killing to save either themselves or the people around them.
The main reason this movie is not just a mindless bloodbath is that it does such a good job of establishing the pre-existing relationships and mindsets of the characters involved. It’s not simply random characters killing waves of unknown people. Belko allows us access to the motivations behind each kill, as well as true insight into the character that’s being killed, which makes for both deeply sad and giddily satisfying deaths throughout. But that doesn’t mean that this movie takes itself too seriously. Not by a long shot. The viewer is treated to joke after joke, intertwined with kill after kill. There’s really not a dull moment. As is expected, Belko also offers a ton of creative kills, utilizing weapons that range from handguns to Molotov cocktails to tape dispensers. Beyond that, the plot pretty much pans out the way you would expect, and describing anything further I think would reach into the realm of spoilers.
Aside from the brutal action, one of my favorite parts of this movie is the originality of its soundtrack. Belko opens with a Spanish cover of “I Will Survive” by José Prieto playing ominously as mysterious armed guards oversee the employees entering the building. This introduction immediately sets the kind of ironic tone and black humor that is characteristic of the film. Throughout the film we’re treated to two more Spanish covers, both of “California Dreamin,’” in different styles. The score further works to set the film’s tone and does so in a fittingly industrial and foreboding way. When I say industrial I mean that when listening to the tracks again after leaving the theater, I found they very much reminded me of Fernand Leger’s Ballet Mecanique (1924) – one of the most enjoyable early experimental films to watch if you haven’t seen it. There’s just something about this type of sound that seems to fit perfectly in a film that takes place at an industrial company where office workers are forced into mass murder.
From its very beginning to its final moments, The Belko Experiment is a no-holds-barred bloodbath of fun. It’s definitely not a work of art nor is it destined to be remembered for years, but it’s a more than enjoyable way to spend an hour and twenty-eight minutes. Especially if you’re sitting in an enormous movie theater recliner. If you’re a horror fan, an action fan, or even a comedy fan who can handle some heavy gore, The Belko Experiment is a worthwhile watch.