The James Gunn scripted THE BELKO EXPERIMENT (2017) is a blast of high concept horror that, with a less commercially successful pedigree, would have been a low budget film that turned up on NetFlix and slowly built a cult following. As it stands, the movie is a low budget effort with very good actors that flopped theatrically and will slowly build a cult following. See the difference there? Yeah, the actors in this one make all the difference in the world. In fact, THE BELKO EXPERIMENT is a great example of how a strong cast of solid character actors can elevate a piece of exploitation cinema.
The plot is basic and brilliant - an office building full of employees is locked down so that no one can leave and then an impersonal voice over the intercom system informs everyone that a certain number of them must be dead in a certain amount of time or all of them will be killed. As you might expect, mayhem ensues. Part Office Space, part Battle Royale the film is well written and tightly directed with enough depth of characterization to make events more tense than average. As stated, the cast is excellent and the dark progression of violent demands on the trapped co-workers twists many everyday annoyances that haunt all of us in our work lives into grim signifiers. The ending is well played and carries a couple of good surprises making this a dark ride but one I can recommend.
This time out the twist is that, at the behest of a mysteriously threatening lady (the amazing Charlize Theron), model of dependability Dom (Vin Diesel) turns traitor to his friends running off with an EMP weapon capable of wiping out the electronics of an entire city. The rest of his team have to figure out why he has done something so contrary to his personality and stop his new cohorts from carrying out whatever bizarre plan they have in mind.
It plays out with speed, humor and insane car chases while the central mystery's solution makes all things clear and provides for another deepening of the emotional manipulation at the heart of the series. Playing on the heartstrings is part of this series' structure and family is the core driving characteristic in these movies now, reflecting producer Diesel's way of looking at life. It's a positive element that allows for relationships to grow and the group of friends to enlarge even if it requires some selective memory from film to film. Don't get me wrong - I like seeing Jason Statham brought into the action on the side of the angels (and he gets a great John Woo inspired sequence here) but didn't he flat out murder a member of their team a couple of movies back?
Still- these are perfect popcorn munching, drive-in evening action flicks that I'm glad are still being made. Dumb fun can sometimes be exactly what is needed, especially if it can be done without being too insulting to the viewers intelligence. Bring on number 9!
BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (1974) - 7 (rewatch)
FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK (1941)- 8 (Errol Flynn comedy mystery)
THE UNCERTAIN DEATH (1973) - 7 (Larraz drama of plantation madness in
JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET (1962) - 4 (rewatch)
THE BELKO EXPERIMENT (2017) - 8
WOMEN OF SAN QUENTIN (1983) - 6 (TV movie about prison guards)
THE SPELL (1977) - 5 (evil witch-child TV movie)
THE BEYOND (1981) - 9 (rewatch)
WORLD WITHOUT END (1956) -6 (rewatch) (silly, sexist, colorful SF)
BATMAN: BAD BLOOD (2016) - 7 (animated tale)
MASSACRE IN DINOSAUR VALLEY (1985) - 4 (terrible Italian made cannibal film)
THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (1964) - 6 (rewatch)
PLAY MOTEL (1979) -4 (ridiculous sexploitation/crime story)
IT (1990) - 6 (rewatch)
THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (2017) -7
PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES (1956) - 3 (rewatch on Blu)