The Belko Experiment

Mar 17, 2017

It's horrible and fun, just the ticket for horror geeks everywhere.

The Belko Experiment

Grade: B

Director: Greg Mclean (Wolf Creek)

Screenplay: James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Cast: John Gallagher, Jr., Tony Goldwyn

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 28 min

by John DeSando

“That survival instinct, that will to live, that need to get back to life again, is more powerful than any consideration of taste, decency, politeness, manners, civility. Anything. It's such a powerful force.” Danny Boyle

When in The Belko Experiment you hear Verdi’s Requiem as people are being slaughtered all around, not only do you think of the Japanese Battle Royale (2000), but you also meditate on the ironic juxtaposition of beauty and a beast. Then you hear beautiful Dvorak and Tchaikovsky and you chuckle that none of this “kill-or-be-killed” stuff could ever happen in Bogota, Colombia, or anywhere else. Then you read the newspaper, and you’re sober again.

Survival stories are rarely as good as Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, where the humans struggling to live are 3 dimensional and smart.  Yet, writer James Gunn and director Greg Mclean have crafted another almost-as-good horror tale of a corporate experiment to test the outer limits of fear and the oft-employed puzzle of killing-a-few- to-save-many motif.

The designated employees of Belko, not a "good company” nor one "bringing the world together" as it claims, are set up to murder each other to survive. While not as gruesome as cannibalizing each other in infamous fashion as the Donners did, the blowing away by guns is outdone by devices planted in their heads to explode when activated. It’s an ingenious bit heralded by the godlike voice on the PA system.

Thus begins the mind control, a bit of a comment on current electronic invasions of our privacy and our independent thinking. The slam against corporate cruelty is obvious, but the eternal question of sacrificing the few for the survival of the many is enticingly offered without enough discussion for cinephiles like me who want more talk than action.

And this action is non-stop head bashing, whether by the explosives, bullets, or axes. Although the gruesome results are realistic enough, less would be more by science-fiction standards that call for dorky chat glossing human nature. The blood and guts are excessive and wince-inducing, reason enough for horror aficionados.

The Belko Experiment, both company and plot, is fun as it explores once more the survival instinct and corporate greed.  The film will not bore you; it will just test your willingness to survive clichés and bloody clutter.

“If you don't hunt it down and kill it, it will hunt you down and kill you.” Flannery O’Connor

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at