IT’S ‘BATTLE ROYALE’ WITH OFFICE SUPPLIES
Originally published 4:00 PM EDT, MARCH 25, 2017
Does work in your office ever feel like a bloodbath? Well, in the The Belko Experiment, it’s not just a sentiment. It’s a reality.
The premise of The Belko Experiment isn’t that hard to follow. Belko Industries is an American company located in Bogotá, Columbia. One seemingly normal day, a mysterious voice comes over the intercom. This voice instructs all 80 employees that over the next 30 minutes, he wants three of their own to be dead. As time ticks down, the situation gets even more severe. Another ultimatum is given and the high-rise office turns into an all-for-one battleground where only one can survive.
If you are anything like me, you research before forking out $9 for a movie ticket. You look at Rotten Tomatoes and other online reviews of the movie you plan to see. The results of your investigation will sway you one way or another on your decision. In this particular instance, The Belko Experiment has a staggering 46% on Rotten Tomatoes. Meanwhile, IGN gave the film a two star rating. This writer, however, is urging you to ignore everything. Go see it.
The film follows in the footsteps of the books/movies The Hunger Games and, of course, Battle Royale. Which begs the question: If Hunger Games was inspired by Battle Royale, then how good can a rip-off of a rip-off be? Or, is this simply the beginning of a new and bold genre of kill or be killed until only one is left standing? According to the new film by Guardians of the Galaxy writer, James Gunn, it very well could be.
There is a lot to love about The Belko Experiment. Yes, one of the complaints is its lack of diversity. However, to me, this stands out as one of its strengths.
Hear me out on this one.
There is a large group of white, middle aged, American men. They decide, amongst themselves, that they hold the power to decide what lives do and do not matter. They create a plan to follow the orders of the faceless voice. These men believe they have the right to choose who lives and dies based on their own ascribed status, gender, and power. It’s a little bit too prevalent to issues in the real world if you ask me.
However the film isn’t exclusively white. In fact, many of the minor characters belong to other racial groups. Luckily enough for them, it is these characters that I recalled most as I left the theatre with tear stained cheeks. (I’ll get to this.) The individuality written into every character, no matter how small was one of the stand-out aspects of The Belko Experiment. In fact, one of the characters that stuck with me most didn’t have any lines. Her five second scene in a body littered stairwell remains with me days after seeing the film.
Aside from having a standout cast, whether the role was big or small, the next thing that stood out to me in the film was (unsurprisingly, yes) the gore. Many of the negative reviews out there complain that bad writing hides behind splatter tactics and shock. And while both are utilized in the film, neither are masks to cover up poorly developed plot or shallow characters. Behind this, for me, is where the biggest difference between The Belko Experiment and The Hunger Games lies.
You see, in both The Hunger Games and Battle Royale this dystopian, fight to the death, war game is something that these children are raised into. The Reaping is an annual occurrence. Citizens of Panem are conditioned for it. In fact, careers in the higher districts even train for the Games. Meanwhile in Battle Royale, even though the students subjected to the battle are unwilling, The BR Act is a well-known law. There is some sort of mental preparation in place. The employees of Belko Industries, on the other hand, have no introduction, no predisposition, nothing. They are thrown, unsuspectingly, into a fight for their lives. Which makes this film incredibly philosophical.
In The Hunger Games every knife thrown or trackerjacker sting is pure, cringe worthy entertainment. In The Belko Experiment every death on screen is a gut-wrenching stab at the viewer’s moral compass. Every time a head is blown off, or someone is beat to death with another variety of office supplies, audiences are forced to ask themselves how the value of their life compares to the value of others. The copious amount of blood and guts in the film doesn’t take away from that, it enhances it. The splatter and gunfire makes it impossible for you to look away from the screen, and even more importantly, to look away from yourself. However, at the same time the content isn’t so heavy that it takes away from being an incredibly enjoyable horror film.
That doesn’t mean the film is perfect. Sometimes the mix of humorous moments before the slaughter left me uneasy in a bad way. It isn’t particularly groundbreaking, it probably won’t be an Academy Award winner, and the ending was just a bit baiting. All that aside. however, I can’t remember the last time I left a movie theatre so incredibly affected in the way that this movie made me feel. I was shaking. I had tears on my cheeks. My mind was spinning as my thoughts circles again and again around one question:
“What would I do if I had to take the life dozens, in order to save my own?”