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The Belko Experiment (2016)

'The Belko Experiment' is a 2016 horror movie written and produced by James Gunn and directed by Greg McLean. The plot itself revolves around a group of 80 office workers who are imprisoned in their corporate office building, and fall victim to a savage experiment in which a mysterious voice orders them to kill one another in order to survive. I remember being really impressed by this movie upon its initial release, not just by its premise but by its flawless execution. Catering perfectly to my tastes with its isolated Sci-fi elements, not to dissimilar to one of my favourite movies of all time 'Cube'. But, with countless imitations since, it's time to go back see if the original still does do it better.

Australian director Greg McLean has a great track record when it comes to horror, directing two of my favourite horror movies in recent years, 'Wolf Creek' and 'Rogue'. Given the small confided location in which this movie takes place, and the even small 3 to 4 rooms we spend time in throughout this movie, McLean manages to keep 'The Belko Experiment' from feeling claustrophobic. His unique way of directing by using long panning framing and carefully selected dolly camera work, provides smooth and captivating visuals. Combining this with a slow build change of lighting that enhances a variety of tones as the movie progresses, it is difficult not to appreciate this man's talent as a director.

The cast is made up of some really impressive performances and as the stakes intensify and the death count rises, this ensemble cast only gets better. John Gallagher Jr. and Adria Ajorna are what would be considered the central focus and our stereotypical final protagonists, Mike and Leandra, as we follow them trying to navigate their way through this unfortunate situation. With James Gunn being the writer and producer of this movie, it was inevitable that he would be bringing along some of his regular collaborators to star in it, such as, Michael Rooker, David Dastmalchian, Tony Goldwyn, Sean Gunn and one of my favourite unhinged performances from John C McGinley.

With 80 people who savagely beginning turning on one another with limited weapons or resources, I'm sure you can imagine, the kills become extremely creative and graphic. Using mostly practical effects work and to a very high standard, I can't speak highly enough of how great these sequences look. One scene in particular features 30 of the office workers heads exploding from a bomb located at the base of their skull and due to them not complying with the rules set in place, one by one they begin to detonate. This scene is wild to say the least, and the juxtaposition of music during it really makes it stand out above all others.

One of the most intriguing elements to this movie is its showcasing of the varying degrees of human behaviour when forced into a survival situation such as this. As the plot begins to unfold, we witness the true emotions and savagery buried deep within these characters rise to the surface when caged like animals and when given the 'Kill or be killed' choice that befalls them. Watching how easily some of these characters become so sadistic, and how a certain few actually take enjoyment out of it, is a terrifying thing to see play out. I always find it hard not to question the people in my life and how I feel they would behave if they too found themselves in a situation like this.

I honestly think it's a shame 'The Belko Experiment' didn't have the commercial success it deserves, as we got a brief glimpse into the endless sequel options for this movie in the closing moments. This could have been a franchise with a lot of potential, and one that I could see myself investing in for a long time. However, as it stands on its own it's flawless for me, with an intriguing plot, violently bloody kills, brilliant performances from its cast and some top tier directing from McLean. I certainly won't be leaving it as long next time before I make a revisit to this movie.



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