The Belko Experiment

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One thing that I have noticed as I’ve gotten older is that I’m acutely aware of my own mortality. I exercise because 1) if I don’t watch my figure, nobody else will and 2) if the zombie apocalypse happens, I’m ready. I also have crippling, plan cancelling anxiety. That anxiety — I’m realizing — isn’t the weakness I once viewed it as, but my greatest attribute. If shit hits the fan, I’ve been prepared for it all along. That impending sense of eventual, inevitable doom has got me on ‘ready’ all day, everyday.

I work in an office that houses roughly 200 employees at any given time. If they made an announcement that we had to start killing each other in order to stay alive, my first thought would probably just be, “That figures.”

Belko, a non-profit organization located in provincial Bogota, Colombia, is an office building like any other. Kind of. Upon onboarding, each new employee has a chip implanted at the base of their skull in case they are kidnapped. The point and purpose of the outfit is ambiguously described at best.

Some of the staffers include Mike (John Gallagher Jr.), his girlfriend, Leandra (Adria Arjona), new girl Dany (Melonie Diaz), office perv, Wendell (John C. McGinley), stoner extraordinaire, Marty (Sean Gunn), maintenance wizard, Bud (Michael Rooker), the one and only security guard at Belko, Evan (James Earl), and the boss man himself, Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn).

A work day starting like any other — office banter and lots of coffee — swiftly takes a different shape when an announcement is made by a mystery voice over the PA that three people must die, or the mystery voice and its collective company will kill six of them.

Here’s where you suss out what kind of people you really work with. There are those who think it’s a joke or make a joke out of it, the people who begin to think pragmatically if it isn’t a joke, and the messes who fall to peices.

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As the building seals up around them, making escape impossible, Barry takes on the alpha role. Calm and collected at first, his patience runs thin in the maelstrom and he begins barking orders. With a climbing body count at the hands of the Mystery Company behind the voice, he makes a decision no one is comfortable with and the killing spree is well under way.

Their demands becoming greater by the hour, the Mystery Voice makes good on each of their promises. Mike, being the most level-headed person in the building, starts to butt heads with Barry when his executive decisions teeter on brash and possibly unnecessary. Mike’s primary concern is Leandra’s continued safety, but even she knows that when it comes down to brass tacks, everyone’s looking out for themselves.

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So many questions: who is doing this? Why? Does the will to survive skew your moral compass and give you the power to kill the nice guy who says hi to you every morning at the printer? Just blow his brains out? When does the scale shift in the other direction?

This movie has been called The Purge: Office Edition. That isn’t terribly accurate given the fact that people will die whether anyone in the building pulls the trigger or not. What would you do? Gamble that they’re bluffing? Or decapitate Karen from accounting without so much as a second thought?

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As your neighborhood score junkie, I’ve gotta give it up for Tyler Bates. He’s responsible for scoring about a million things — Dawn of the Dead, 300, and The Sacrament being some of my favorites — and expertly crafted something nervewracking for Belko.

The concept for the film is good enough. The execution — PUN — is fine. It’s the ending that spoiled it for me. I’m not one to give these things away unsolicited. It is often difficult to put a bow on something like this and not have it look like my 8-year-old nephew wrapped it up with his eyes closed. Horror and thriller films usually either stick the landing or totally unravel at the end.

While it’s tough to say just exactly why I didn’t like it based on the content of the ending I will tell you that it fell apart like bad meatloaf; too many breadcrumbs, not enough egg, and the onions weren’t diced small enough. It’s worth a look because it does have a fun cast of players, but it’s totally fine to wait for it to hit Netflix.

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