“In two minutes we want thirty of you dead. If thirty of you are not dead, we will end sixty of your lives ourselves…”
On paper this film has a lot going for it. Produced by Blumhouse Productions, the company that has single-handedly revolutionised horror movies, written by James Gunn, the man responsible for Guardians of the Galaxy and Super among others and starring John Gallagher Jr., an actor who is on a hot streak as an unlikely horror leading man. So why does it end up feeling so flat?
The main issue here is that there is a fine line between homage and rehashing tired ideas and The Belko Experiment crosses that line many times. The influences are as subtle as a knife to the gut; Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale, High Rise, Hunger Games and the real life Stanford prison experiment all loom large over director Greg McLean’s unoriginal premise.
The reason the film isn’t a total failure is the acting. Gallagher Jr. has proven himself adept at this kind of role before in both Hush and 10 Cloverfield Lane. Elsewhere, it is always a pleasure to see John C. McGinley and there are various other TV alumni with The Walking Dead (Michael Rooker), Silicon Valley (Josh Brener) and Gilmore Girls (Sean Gunn) all represented. This strong role call of talent keeps the films head above water but ultimately the overly familiar premise renders the film pretty boring, even at under 90 minutes.
The Belko Experiment isn’t a total bust but the door that was left open for a sequel should be firmly closed so that Blumhouse can focus on something a little more worthwhile. There are way better movies, not just in the same genre, but with exactly the same story. Go watch one of them instead.