TIFF 2016: The Belko Experiment Review

Midnight Madness

A combination of Battle Royale and Office Space that’s also a collaboration of two individual genre talents in screenwriter James Gunn (Guardians Of The Galaxy) and director Greg McLean, The Belko Experiment is a few things at once. It’s horror yet comedy, smart yet stupid, anti-violence yet viciously-gory. There are quite a few dichotomies peppered throughout except for one: it’s never boring. This nasty genre flick should inspire giddy thrills from the right blood-thirsty crowd and a more than a few guilty laughs as well. 

The movie takes place in Columbia, where a company has imported an office building worth of US employees to work on menial tasks, engage in awkward banter, and flirt with each other. You know, just like any ol’ office. Then one morning metal shutters crash down over all of the doors and windows and a voice announces over a loud speaker that three people will die at random in a few hours unless the same number are murdered by choice. Obviously no one is up for murdering, so the mysterious voice proves its strength and then doubles down by saying that they will randomly kill thirty more unless the employees choose to murder twenty first. So yeah, things will get icky. 

Gunn’s script nimbly mixes scares and laughs, but as a director McLean doesn’t mess around with the violence. It’s always harsh and vicious. The threat is real even if the situation gets knowingly goofy. The cast is pretty great, filled with recognizable character actors like John C. McGinley, Michael Rooker, and Sean Gunn to ensure that viewers have a tricky time guessing which order all the bodies will hit the floor. 

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Granted, the clear hero and villain are identified early on lessening the surprise and all of the inter-office bodycount horror gets a little repetitive. Yet, when The Belko Experiment is on point the movie mixes fear, humour, violence, and tricky depictions of morality with an ease and wit that’s hard to beat. It’s tough to make a horror/comedy that’s both this much fun and causes this much discomfort. There could be a franchise here if the marketing is right. 

Screening: 

Sunday Sept. 11, 5:45pm, Scotiabank 2

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