The Belko Experiment -Revels in the torture and suffering of a poorly served cast

Staff cuts and corporate headhunting are embraced with bloodthirsty and literal glee in The Belko Experiment.
Undated Film Still Handout from The Belko ExperimentUndated Film Still Handout from The Belko Experiment
Undated Film Still Handout from The Belko Experiment

Set predominantly within an office building in Bogota, Colombia, Greg McLean's lurid horror doesn't skimp on the splatter as craniums explode in stomach-churning close-up to an amusingly kitsch soundtrack including Latin versions of I Will Survive and California Dreamin'.

Those tongue-in-cheek, retro music cues are just what you would expect from screenwriter James Gunn, creative dynamo behind the riotous comic book romp Guardians Of The Galaxy and its forthcoming sequel.

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The relentless carnage and nihilism are not, including one balletic sequence of barbarism orchestrated to Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1.

Buried deep within all of the brain matter and glistening entrails is a half-baked satire about dog-eat-dog workplace culture, but like most of the protagonists, McLean's picture hankers for an orgy of dismemberment rather than an intelligent conversation about corporate greed.

The light in the darkness is John Gallagher Jr's endearing performance as an egalitarian middle manager, who advocates open discussion not warfare.

His sweetness cuts through the acridity of McLean's unquenchable desire to shoot and disembowel anything with a pulse.

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Staff arrive at the gates of Belko Industries - motto: "Business without boundaries" - to find new gun-toting security guards checking IDs.

Colombians are sent home while American employees are ushered into the office.

Late morning, an intercom crackles to life and a menacing voice (Gregg Henry) demands the sacrifice of two of the 80 people in the building within 30 minutes.

Chief operating officer Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn) soothes frayed nerves, convinced someone is playing a sick joke, but it's no laughing matter when metal shutters encase the building to prevent escape.

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Thirty minutes later, four people perish as a grisly penalty for disobeying orders.

The mysterious voice demands a further efficiency drive - 30 innocent lives within two hours - and lights the fuse on an emotional powder keg of paranoia and mistrust.

Systems manager Mike Milch (Gallagher Jr) urges solidarity, flanked by lone security guard Evan (James Earl) and head of maintenance Bud Melks (Michael Rooker).

However, senior staff defer to brutal survivalist instincts.

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"We have to be bold here, this isn't the time for timidity," COO Barry urges fellow executives Wendell Dukes (John C McGinley) and Terry Winters (Owain Yeoman), his personal assistant Leandra (Adria Arjona) and head of human resources Vince Agostino (Brent Sexton).

The Belko Experiment revels in the torture and suffering of a poorly served cast.

Gunn knows how to stage an orgiastic bloodbath, but it's hard to raise emotional investment in the thinly sketched characters apart from Mike.

Repetitive rapid-fire death sequences become tiresome, and a ham-fisted coda, which attempts to justify the carnage as a social experiment in human behaviour unfettered by social norms, merely tees up a sequel.


Released: April 21 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

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