The Belko Experiment

The Belko Experiment ★★★

I've been meaning to watch this for ages. And now with the release of The Suicide Squad, it seems like an appropriate time to give The Belko Experiment a go. And why exactly is that? Let's find out! I'd like to look at this movie from two different perspectives:

1) AS A MOVIE:
It's not too great and has a lot of things that bring it down for me. But it's not a bad movie. The Belko Experiment was directed by Greg McLean of Wolf Creek fame (anybody recommend those movies?), so he has experience with splatter films and gore horror. The brutal moments are executed well and make you flinch when they are supposed to do so. And that's basically what this film is: a ton of graphic violence but not much that ties it to something meaningful.
John C. McGinley, whose acting I usually love, seems to act in a completely different movie than the rest of the cast. The rest of the cast, in spite of some big names in it, doesn't stand out too much at all. So it seems like there might be lacking something, which brings us to...

2) THE GUNN ANGLE:
This movie was scripted by James Gunn, who had the idea when he dreamt the trailer for this film. Not only that, he had finished the screenplay for almost a decade before it got made. From what I understand, the studio decided to make it when Gunn's name skyrocketed into Guardians of the Galaxy fame. In fact, he was so busy filming Vol. 2 that he couldn't direct Belko, which leads me to my main point here.
The majority of reviews I've read for this film pointed fingers towards McLean for the film's shortcomings. Not too far-fetched in principle, he is the director after all. But I do take issue with a lot of reviewers basically claiming he misinterpreted Gunn's script. It is true that the writer has a unique humor often used in gruesome situations in his movies and some scenes in The Belko Experiment might have worked better if they hadn't taken themselves so seriously. And while I haven't had the opportunity to read the script, I'll link you to an interview from 2009, when Gunn had already finished writing Belko. Upon being asked if this particular script has the Gunn humor in it, he answers that it is not very funny at all and he sees it as an exercise to write something without his trademark jokes. Additionally, he was a producer on the film and had the power to give notes on cuts etc. So I really wouldn't say that it would have been substantially closer to his usual tone had he directed it himself. On the other hand, Gunn knows how to get people invested into his weird characters, so that might have worked better with him in the directing chair. And he seems to be very much about naturalistic acting and tone, so perhaps it would have had a very different style after all. But we'll never know if this would have made for a better film. Ultimately, it just seems like the idea had a lot of potential but it wasn't really taken to the next level. The commentary and ethical dilemmas don't quite work the way they seem to be intended.
Outside of his regulars (hello Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn and Gregg Henry!), there is also a lack of Gunn-isms here. No freaked-out pregnancy, no animals, very little dark humor, no tentacles, brains or dad rock soundtrack... but there is an ensemble fighting a supernatural (or a kind of higher powered) threat and some of the rooftop scenes were similar to Dawn of the Dead.

However, this might be what introduced Gunn to David Dastmalchian. On top of that, there are action scenes in a South American office building, bombs implanted into people's heads, graphic violence... did The Belko Experiment walk so The Suicide Squad could run?

In the end, this film didn't live up to its promising premise for my taste. However, it has a very short runtime, so you might enjoy it if you are up for a gore fest with not too much on its mind.

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