The Belko Experiment: The Purge meets The Office, with added blood and guts

The staff have 30 minutes to kill two of their office co-workers in this latest gorefest from the Blumhouse stable

Tony Goldwyn and John C. McGinley in The Belko Experiment

Film Title: The Belko Experiment

Director: Greg McLean

Starring: John Gallagher Jr, Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Josh Brener, Michael Rooker

Genre: Thriller

Running Time: 88 min

Fri, Apr 21, 2017, 06:49

   

It’s just another day at the office for the desk jockeys at Belko Industries, an NGO that facilitates the hiring of overseas US employees from its headquarters in Bogotá, Columbia. No, wait. It’s not “just another day”. For one thing, there are new menacing security guards outside at the facility; for another, all the Columbian staff are sent home early.

Suddenly, the 80 remaining Americans are shuttered in and instructed by a voice on the intercom to kill two of their co-workers within 30 minutes. Or else.

Systems worker Mike Milch (The Newsroom’s John Gallagher Jr) is understandably unnerved, but the smooth-talking Chief Operating Officer Barry (Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn) assures the staff that this is just a prank and they’ll soon get to the bottom of… No wait, four employees just had their heads blown up from the inside. (Looks like the Belko workers should never have agreed to those anti-kidnap tracking implants.)

So now the intercom voice demands that that 30 employees must be killed within two hours. Heated debate ensues. “Sounds to me like you want to kill innocent people,” cries a horrified Mike during a pow-wow littered with corporate euphemisms. “That’s not what I’m saying at all,” retorts Barry. “I’m saying we need to discuss all our options.”

Soon enough we’re knee-deep in blood and gristle as The Belko Experiment shifts into full Battle Royale mode. Predictably, some co-workers – including John McGinley’s office perv and Owain Yeoman’s flipped-out family man – are more bloodthirsty than others. But can the good guys, notably Mike, his girlfriend Leandra (Adria Arjona), the cool-headed security guard (James Earl) and the stoned conspiracy-nut from the cafeteria (Sean Gunn), survive the newly improvised death squads?

At its best, this latest Blumhouse joint overlaps with label mate The Purge, in its delivery of sly barbs against late-capitalism (employment rights signed away, including the right to not have one’s head explode) amidst mayhem and slayings. It ought to be great horror-satire, but it rather loses its nerve once the butchery begins.

The script, from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1 and 2 screenwriter James Gunn, can be rather inelegant as it backs into its high concept. Many unnecessary explanations (stay tuned for the sequel-begging coda) are proffered. Other explanations - isn’t this ‘remote’ facility located in one of the world’s great urban sprawls? - are ‘oh, look over there!’

Still, this is mostly good, clean - well, not clean - generic fun from Wolf Creek director Greg McLean, bolstered by a solid ensemble cast and impressive bloodwork from make-up effects artists Rachel Griffin and Camilo Márquez and their team.