One of the most frustrating things about movies is when a good idea is poorly executed. While I certainly wouldn’t say that problem is specific to the horror genre, it does seem to be the most frequent offender. An awesome killer or creature, with a backstory that isn’t yawn inducing, only to be ruined by undeveloped characters or a convoluted ending. There are endless examples of these 50/50 movies and The Belko Experiment, a movie that showed such promise in early trailers, ends up falling into category.
I’ve long assumed the only reason we haven’t seen an American remake of Battle Royale is that on-screen violence against children is seemingly still taboo. IT may have started to change that, but that’s a conversation for another day. Instead of a Battle Royale remake (or even the chance to see the original pre-2012) we got easier to swallow movies with similar plots. While I find Stone Cold Steve Austin’s The Condemned and The Hunger Games enjoyable, they still didn’t quite stand up to an island of 7th graders hardcore murdering each other. The Belko Experiment takes the “everybody kill everybody” premise and moves it into a locked down office building. Unfortunately, that’s where the originality stops.
In general, I’m not a fan of comedy mixed in with my horror, so it takes a lot for me to say that The Belko Experiment was begging to be a horror comedy. While there is a self aware, tongue-in-cheek aspect to the movie, it feels more like crumbs off of the Cabin in the Woods table than blazing new ground. There was a chance to take an approach of The Office-style comedy with some hyper-violence. Instead we get a group of generic characters and rules so strict the film backs itself into a corner.
With a run time of just 89 minutes and a main cast of about 10 characters, the audience isn’t given a chance to really get a feel for most of the awesome, yet wasted, cast. John Gallagher Jr., John C. McGinley, Tony Goldwyn, Melodie Diaz, and Michael Rooker are all game, but just don’t have much to work with.
It’s not all bad, though. There are some moments of genuine tension sprinkled in. There’s also plenty here for those who love a good old fashioned blood bath, or if you have some burning desire to watch Dr. Cox go full on psycho. Director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, Rogue) remains underrated in the genre and turns in another solid effort here. The way the film was shot was actually a highlight for me, remaining visually entertaining and well-framed throughout.
The end result for The Belko Experiment is a mixed bag. What we’re given is okay but, considering the talent involved, it left me wanting something more.
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