Horror fans anticipating the release of The Belko Experiment were met with a chorus of boos and jeers from the nation’s film critics. The low-budget film, starring Tony Goldwyn, John Gallagher Jr., and Melonie Diaz, was never expected to be a critically acclaimed blockbuster, but anticipation had been slowly building due to a chill-inducing ad campaign.
Opening opposite Disney’s big-budget live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, The Belko Experiment focuses on a group of Americans working in a high-tech office building in Bogota, Colombia who face a nightmare scenario where they are placed on lockdown and forced into a fight for their lives. Adding to their disturbing predicament, the employees all have explosives implanted in their heads that will go off, according to a mysterious voice on the building’s loudspeaker, if they don’t start killing each other.
The Belko Experiment A Terrible Experience According To These Critics
Calling The Belko Experiment “horrifying for all the wrong reasons” and “reprehensible,” Vanity Fair critic Jordan Hoffman panned the film for unnecessary violence and gore that didn’t move the plot forward. Hoffman leveled animus at the film’s director Greg McLean and writer James Gunn, saying that they crafted a film that “devolves into a cavalcade of gruesome squibs, exit wounds, and creative kills amid the cries and pleas for mercy” as the movie’s characters’ grapple with the decision to murder each other for survival.
Todd VanDerWerff at Vox expressed disdain for The Belko Experiment, likening it to a horrendous mashup of The Office and The Hunger Games that resembles bad fan fiction. Pointing to a “lazy” rendering of corporate culture, VanDerWerff alluded the missed potential the film had in satirizing the American workplace. He also referenced plot points that felt dated and underdeveloped.
Clocking in at just under 90 minutes, The Belko Experiment‘s short length was a plus in an otherwise lukewarm review from Screen Rant‘s Chris Agar who found the film “underwritten” with “run-of-the-mill direction.” Agar’s assessment that the film’s “high aspirations” are not fulfilled is in line with most of the negative reviews.
The bad reviews for The Belko Experiment come on the heels of the nearly universal critical acclaim for Blumhouse Production’s recent film Get Out, directed by Jordan Peele. The aspects of Get Out that delighted audiences and critics alike are missing from The Belko Experiment according to Forbes‘ contributor Scott Mendelson.
In his mixed review, Mendelson praised the first half of the film but ultimately felt it did not meet the standard achieved by other Blumhouse releases such as The Purge series.
Many of The Belko Experiment‘s lackluster reviews reference its similarities to the 2000 Japanese drama Battle Royale directed by Kinji Fukasaku. Hailed as a cult classic, Battle Royale shares similarities in plot to The Belko Experiment, such as the use of explosive devices to incite violence in the survival of the fittest death match.
Though many critics were less than enamored, The Belko Experiment did manage to garner good reviews from numerous reviewers, which indicates that the film is a polarizing viewing experience.
In praising The Belko Experiment, Mic reviewer Miles Surrey noted that it is a good film to see with friends if expectations remain tempered.
“As long as you’re not expecting thought-provoking social commentary, you’ll leave the theater satisfied, and perhaps, more wary of which of your co-workers could get pushed over the edge first.”
Audiences And Critics Disagree On The Belko Experiment
Early audience responses from moviegoers have been mostly positive for The Belko Experiment, in significant contrast to the critics.
While Beauty and The Beast is expected to break box office records, totals for The Belko Experiment are tracking modest. The horror film will earn back its production budget of $5 million dollars on only 1,250 screens according to Deadline, but it will not match the recent earnings of other Blumhouse Productions films.
[Featured Image by Eric Charbonneau/AP Images]