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Gunning for Laughs

The Belko Experiment follows an office building's worth of employees who unwittingly become the focal point of a morbid experiment. Located in a rural area of Colombia, the US-based corporate lackies are forced to kill one another in order to survive. As the numbers shrink and the challenges heightened by an enigmatic voice, the remaining survivors are forced to decide between their morals and survival.

The Belko Experiment

The Belko Experiment Review

I have a deep love and respect for James Gunn (writer and producer) and Greg McLean (director). In the case of Gunn, who I like to call Joss Whedon Jr., I consider him one of the masters of balancing dark humor and violence into a somehow lighthearted affair. Though his more lighthearted side is present in Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither and Super are perfect examples of his sadistic side of humor. McLean, on the other hand, is primarily strict horror, with Wolf Creek and one of my favorite creature features of all time, Rogue. However, I wouldn't consider both of those filmmakers to share a parallel vision. And I think that affected the final product of The Belko Experiment.

The Belko Experiment falls into plane of existence I can best describe as a limbo between dark humor and straight horror. The violence and dark side of human nature with a serious tone was more prominent than I expected. The light moments were far more limited, and seemed to be used in more conventional ways to lighten the mood after a particularly dark scene. For the most part, the film's atmosphere is more in line with McLean than Gunn.

However, the premise is very Gunn. A bunch of coworkers with a smorgasbord of Office Space personalities forced to kill each other? That screams dark humor. And even the script seems written that way at times. But it feels like the film was the poor retelling of a good joke. Your friend tells the story but butchers the punchline. It was still entertaining, but I'm not really laughing.

Sure, McLean's Wolf Creek and Wolf Creek 2 had some of that dark humor, but it's in constant conflict with the terror of a sadistic serial killer. And we get a lot more serial killer than Office Space in The Belko Experiment, and I just don't think the plot calls for it.

The setting and characters are traditionally ridiculous. It's almost like the punchline was that it was taken seriously. It felt like it was going to be the zany ride I expected at the beginning, but it gradually became clear that this was more somber than a black comedy should be. It made the whole experience feel awkward, because you feel like there should be laughs where there is none. It never felt whole because of it.

But I am being overly harsh considering how much fun the film is. I just had to temper my expectations so I could appreciate the film for its own tone. The action is great, the plot intriguing enough to keep you involved, and the effects are strong and unwavering.

Gunn and McLean are talents I love to follow, but I'm not sure they were the perfect marriage for this particular feature. But they didn't fail. I would watch Belko again and completely enjoy it. And as far as horror movies go, that's a checkmark you can account to success.

Horror Qualifier: 7/10

Horror Quality: 5/10

Film Quality: 5/10

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