I wanted to see this one when it came to theaters, but some things had come up around that time so I missed my window of opportunity. I finally had the chance to grab this from Redbox and give it a shot. Fun fact, my academic background is in Psychology (yes, I know we’re the red-headed step child of the sciences). The premise of this movie intrigued that curious part of my brain that got me into Psychology in the first place. When I watched it, it was reminiscent of the Stanford prison experiment that everyone learns about in most 101 type classes. If you’re familiar with the experiment, you can kind of guess the direction things are headed. There are no spoilers here; unless you weren’t aware this movie was about people locked in an office building forced to kill each other. In which case, sorry I spoiled that for you.
The Good: The thing that I loved the most was that it didn’t take long to kick into the action and it was paced very well. It walked the fine line of building suspense but not dragging it out, and make you wish that they’d just start killing each other already. Everyone was likable and fairly level headed when things got started, then it quickly descends into madness showing the true side of human nature. The reactions seemed believable for the most part, with the exception of maybe a few people; but then again, who’s to say how someone would really react in a situation like this? The gore is bountiful but they don’t tend to linger on it too long. Bonus points though, you get to see Dr. Cox go absolutely fucking nuts on some people. They also did an excellent job of setting the atmosphere by gradually making the building chaotic and showing the desperation among the workers. All the while, the overhead voice continues to push the survivors of each round a little bit further with disturbing calmness.
The Belko Experiment did the balancing act quite well by juggling action, suspense, horror and even a little comedy mixed in. I liked that the comedy parts weren’t in your face, but with more subtle things like a Spanish version of “I will survive” playing on the radio. This was written by James Gunn, who also wrote and directed Slither, so I expect nothing less.
The Bad: While most of the characters were believable, a few seemed to “jump ship” a little too fast before looking for alternative solutions. There were a few smart ones but it didn’t seem to be the overwhelming majority which had me a little frustrated. I was also expecting people killing each other in an office building to have a bit of creativity mixed in, but most of the killing was done somewhat conventionally. If you’re a gore hound, you’ll still probably end up being satisfied though. That being said, a majority of the people are forgettable and are clearly there just as cannon fodder. The film was very predictable as well, which is unfortunate because they had so much material to end it on an interesting note or something a little different than what you might expect.
The Judgment: The Belko Experiment is a twisted little number that satisfies those thoughts and questions from the lizard brain. The ending lends itself to a potential sequel if they really cared to. While the film is enjoyable, I don’t think anything about it screamed that it really needs a sequel. I foresee a direct-to-video sequel or two down the road but I’m unconvinced that it’ll be a project that James Gunn will be involved with. It stands great as a movie of its own but as most studios tend to do, they overextend their reach out of greed and end up ruining anything that was enjoyable from the first film. So, the real question, would I recommend watching? Absolutely! Despite its predictability and lack of creativity in some departments, the film pulls through very well on its main characters and overall atmosphere. Most people know exactly what they’re getting with this movie, so enjoy the ride!