The Belko Experiment
The Belko Experiment is a 2016 American horror-thriller film directed by Greg McLean and written by James Gunn. The film stars John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, John C. McGinley and Melonie Diaz. The film follows 80 American workers who work at Belko Industries and are told by a mysterious voice that they have to start killing each other.
|The Belko Experiment|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Greg McLean|
|Written by||James Gunn|
|Music by||Tyler Bates|
|Cinematography||Luis David Sansas|
|Edited by||Julia Wong|
|Box office||$11.1 million|
Filming began on June 1, 2015, in Bogotá, Colombia, and concluded the following month. The film premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2016 and was released in the United States on March 17, 2017, by Blumhouse Tilt and Orion Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics and has grossed $11 million worldwide, against its $5 million budget.
Mike Milch (John Gallagher Jr.), an employee of Belko Industries, while driving to work is stopped by street vendors selling "lucky" handmade dolls. Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn), also of Belko Industries, arrives at the remote office building in rural Bogotá, Colombia, to find unfamiliar security guards turning away the local Colombian staff at the gate. New employee Dany Wilkins (Melonie Diaz) reports for her first day on the job and is told that a tracking device is implanted in the base of every Belko employee's skull in case they are kidnapped. This is explained as being common in Colombia due to the high incidence of kidnapping.
Evan Smith (James Earl), Belko's head security guard, does not know who the new security guards are. Once the eightieth employee shows up, a voice on the intercom instructs the employees to kill two of their co-workers, or else there will be consequences. Several staff attempt to flee the building, but steel shutters seal off the walls and doors, locking them all in. They ignore the announcement at first, believing it to be a prank, but after the set time ends and the two were not killed; four employees die when explosives hidden in their trackers detonate and blow their heads apart. Mike attempts to remove his tracker with a box cutter. Warned by the voice that he too will die unless he stops, he gives up.
The group is told that unless thirty of them are dead within two hours, sixty will be killed. They split into two factions, one led by Mike who believes that there should be no killing, and chief operating officer boss Barry Norris who intends to follow the directions in order to save himself. Barry and his group, consisting of executive Wendell (John C. McGinley), as well as employees Terry (Owain Yeoman), Antonio (Benjamin Byron Davis) and Bradley (Andres Suarez) attempt to burn off the lock of the armory in order to gain access to its weapons. Mike and his group, including his girlfriend Leandra Florez (Adria Arjona), Evan and employees Keith (Josh Brener), Leota (Gail Bean), Peggy (Rusty Schwimmer), Vince (Brent Sexton) and Roberto (David Del Rio), try to hang banners from the roof as a call for help, but soldiers outside shoot at them. Barry, Wendell, and Terry ambush the group in the stairway, kill Evan and take his keys to the armory.
With his group now armed, Barry and Wendell select thirty people, including Mike and Peggy, forcing them to kneel in a line. He begins executing them with a gunshot to the back of the head. Dany, who has been hiding in the basement, sees what is happening and shuts off the building's lights before Mike and several others can be killed. The employees immediately run for cover as Barry and his group start firing, killing several more people, although Bradley and Antonio are ganged up on and killed by the employees. During this, Dany goes into the elevator shaft with Roberto.
Barry and Wendell hunt down the fleeing employees as the voice informs them that only twenty-nine have been killed. The two-hour time limit runs out and the voice states that 31 more people will die including Terry, Leota, Peggy and Keith, leaving only 16 survivors. They are then informed by the voice that, as a final task, the employee who has killed the most people within an hour will be spared. Barry finds Dany and Roberto in the elevator shaft, but Dany escapes while Roberto is crushed and killed in the elevator shaft. Leandra finds two employees, Marty (Sean Gunn) and Chet (Abraham Benrubi), collecting the un-exploded trackers from the heads of people who have died by other methods. They tell her that they are planning to use them to blow up the wall. However, they are killed by Wendell. Leandra kills Wendell, leaving the final 5 survivors: Vince, Mike, Barry, Dany, and Leandra. Barry shoots Vince and Dany, killing them, and also shoots Leandra. With her dying breath, she proclaims her love to Mike.
In a rage, Mike fights and then kills Barry by crushing his skull with a tape dispenser. The building is then unsealed, as he is the last survivor, and the soldiers escort him to the hangar next door. There, he meets the owner of the voice (Gregg Henry), who says that they’re part of an international organisation studying human behaviour. As he and his colleagues begin to question Mike about his emotional and mental state, Mike notices a panel of switches that correspond to the eighty employees. Having planted the trackers that Marty collected on the soldiers and the Voice, he flips every remaining active switch except his own. The trackers explode, killing the soldiers and wounding the Voice, before Mike grabs a gun and kills the remaining scientists. The Voice attempts to reason with Mike and appeal to his moral beliefs, but Mike kills him. He then leaves the warehouse in a state of shock. The view zooms out to reveal that Mike is one of many sole survivors from similar experiments, being watched by another group through security cameras. A new voice states "end stage one" and "commence stage two."
- John Gallagher Jr. as Mike Milch, an employee at Belko Industries
- Tony Goldwyn as Barry Norris, the COO of Belko and an ex-special forces soldier
- Adria Arjona as Leandra Florez, Norris' assistant
- John C. McGinley as Wendell Dukes, a socially awkward top executive
- Melonie Diaz as Dany Wilkins, a new hire at Belko
- Owain Yeoman as Terry Winters
- Sean Gunn as Marty Espenscheid, a cafeteria worker
- Brent Sexton as Vince Agostino, Belko's head of human resources
- Josh Brener as Keith McLure, a tech worker
- David Dastmalchian as Alonso "Lonny" Crane, a maintenance worker under Melks
- David Del Rio as Roberto Jerez
- Gregg Henry as The Voice
- Michael Rooker as Bud Melks, Belko's head of Maintenance
- Rusty Schwimmer as Peggy Displasia, Milch's secretary
- Gail Bean as Leota Hynek, a worker who befriends Wilkins
- James Earl as Evan Smith, Belko's only security guard
- Abraham Benrubi as Chet Valincourt, Espencheid's best friend
- Valentine Miele as Ross Reynolds, a sales representative for Belko
- Stephen Blackehart as Brian Vargas, an interpreter
- Benjamin Byron Davis as Antonio Fowler
- Silvia de Dios as Helena Barton
- Cindy Better as Lorena Checo
- Lorena Tobar as Leezle Freemont, a cafeteria worker.
- Joe Fria as Tyson Moon
- Mikaela Hoover as Raziya Memarian, Agostino's assistant
- Maruia Shelton as Agnes Meraz
James Gunn began writing the film after waking up from a dream of an office building being enclosed in metal walls and hearing a voice instruct employees to kill each other. Initially Gunn wrote the film (as The Belco Experiment) prior to directing the 2010 film Super, although he backed away from the project once it got greenlit, owing to getting a divorce around the same time. Says Gunn "I just wanted to be around my friends and family. I didn't want to go shoot this thing that was about people who loved and cared about each other being forced into killing each other. It just didn't seem to be the way I wanted to spend the next few months of my life. So I backed out of it." As Gunn's name became bigger and bigger he had "kind of forgotten about it" until he received a call from Jon Glickman at MGM asking if he would still be interested in making it.
Much of the cast was announced in May 2015 including John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, and Melonie Diaz. More joined the cast in June, including David Del Rio, Stephen Blackehart, Josh Brener, and Rusty Schwimmer.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2016. Shortly after, Blumhouse Tilt and Orion Pictures acquired U.S distribution rights to the film, and set it for a March 17, 2017, release. It was released to UK theaters on April 15, 2017.
The film was promoted through a series of four claymation shorts directed by Lee Hardcastle which, according to website io9 (where they debuted), "features exaggerated versions of The Belko Experiment’s characters, and offers a taste of the level of violence and humor you’ll see when the actual movie opens". The movie was also promoted with a video game, "'Belko Experiment’ Escape Room in VR" released for virtual reality platforms.
In the United States and Canada, The Belko Experiment was released alongside Beauty and the Beast and was projected to gross around $4 million in its opening weekend. It made $305,000 from Thursday night previews and $1.5 million on its first day. It went on to open to $4.1 million, finishing 7th at the box office.
According to the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 52% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 98 reviews, with an average rating of 5.51/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "The Belko Experiment offers a few moments of lurid fun for genre enthusiasts, but lacks enough subversive smarts to consistently engage once the carnage kicks in." On Metacritic, the film has a score 44 out of 100 based on 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
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