This Friday, The Belko Experiment from director Greg McLean and writer James Gunn heads into theaters. We've seen the movie, and are here to run down everything you need to know heading into the corporate bloodbath.
The film centers on 80 American employees in an office building in Bogota, Colombia, who are locked inside their office and forced to battle one another to the death by a mysterious voice coming from the building's public address system.
It's an ensemble movie, and while there's one character who emerges quickly as the "main" main character -- Mike Milch, played by John Gallagher, Jr. -- there are a handful of others who play big roles and most of them are, at least at first, not bad guys.
In this story, we'll run you through some of the high points of the movie that you won't get in standard marketing materials, and give you fair warning about just how intense and gruesome it gets from time to time.
It at first seems to be an ordinary morning on the job for a group of Americans working for a not-for-profit in a modern office building in Colombia. After noticing that their Colombian colleagues have not arrived for work, office worker Mike (John Gallagher, Jr.) spots some unfamiliar security guards entering a large hangar nearby. Moments later, an icy voice comes over the building's PA system and calmly explains that the employees must kill a certain number of their co-workers — if not, they will be killed themselves. While the boss (Tony Goldwyn) tries to calm the troops, Mike belatedly realizes that something truly sinister is going on — and when metal doors come sliding down on all the building's exits and windows, it becomes clear that friends and colleagues are now suddenly enemies in a bloody and brutal battle to the death.
The cast also includes Adria Arjona (True Detective), John C. McGinley (Stan Against Evil, Scrubs), Josh Brener (Silicon Valley), Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy), Sean Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), and Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station).
The film was directed by Greg McLean (The Darkness, Wolf Creek), written and produced by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) and produced by Peter Safran (The Conjuring, Annabelle).
The Belko Experiment comes out March 17.
James Gunn, known to comics fans for Guardians of the Galaxy but active in the film industry for years on movies like Tromeo & Juliet, Slither, Dawn of the Dead and Scooby-Doo 2, wrote the film, apparently after a dream, and it's been essentially in a slow development for years.
Originally Gunn's plan was to direct the film before Super, but he pulled out around the time of his 2008 divorce and the movie stagnated until a producer called Gunn up about it and the movie started production in 2015.
Gunn is not the director of the movie, but you can definitely "hear" his voice in the movie, and see his influence in the casting...more on that later.
As much as we love Guardians of the Galaxy and Slither, though, this is not by any stretch "a James Gunn film."
The high concept and even a good script only take you so far, and a big part of the reason this movie works and you find yourself caring about the characters is a pressure-cooker environment that steadily escalates the stakes.
The fact that trailers have already blown a few of the big evolutions in the movie's story means that most audience members can probably guess how things start to take shape as that pressure cooker boils over and threatens to explode, but along the way Wolf Creek's Greg McLean manages to pace out the character moments and humor beats so that it maximizes the impact of the violence.
Orion Pictures is back in action!
Promotional materials call your attention to Blumhouse, who have worked on movies like Annabelle and The Conjuring -- but Orion is a logo familiar to kids of the '80s in a big way, having been behind movies like Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and the Rambo franchise.
The studio went belly up in 1995 and the logo -- seen in the opening credits of The Belko Experiment -- hasn't been attached to a major release since the turn of the Century.
There are a bunch of recognizable faces in this movie, and even some of the folks you might not know have pretty memorable turns.
Besides Scandal star Tony Goldwyn, Scrubs alum John C. McGinley, and 10 Cloverfield Lane's John Gallagher, Jr., the movie features great actors in relatively small roles, ranging from Guardians of the Galaxy and The Walking Dead's Michael Rooker to Silicon Valley's Josh Brener.
And while Gunn didn't direct this one, his brother Sean (best known for his long-running part on The Gilmore Girls, but also the live-action stand-in for Rocket Raccoon during production on the Guardians of the Galaxy films) has a memorable role that definitely breaks the mold set by most of the other characters. Rooker's character is best friends with David Dastmalchian, from Ant-Man, The Dark Knight, and Gotham, who was just cast on The Flash.
Oh, and a little tease: you won't see it until the final few scenes, but there's another Guardians of the Galaxy cast member accounted for in the film, as well.
This is a pretty gruesome movie.
As we'll get to soon, it's pretty much a horror movie (that's how Blumhouse classifies it, so it shouldn't really be a surprise) that masquerades as a kind of suspense/black comedy kind of movie along the way.
But once things start to get ugly, there's ugly and then there's ugly. And ugly rears its head a lot in this movie, whether it's people being beaten to death, pulled apart, sliced up, or just the uncommon sadness of seeing somebody who's actually responding to the event that killed them with shock and horror.
So...yeah. Other than sexuality, anything you might expect out of a hard R -- blood, gore, violence, language, psychological horror, and all variety of adult situations -- is present and accounted for.
One of the first reviews for the movie called it Battle Royale meets Office Space, and that's not entirely inaccurate. Certainly it doesn't go as far in pursuit of laughs as Office Space does, but you can liken it to John Wick Chapter 2 or Man Bites Dog in terms of its willingness to juxtapose the truly awful with the everyday (or, in the case of Belko, with corporatespeak) in order to get a shellshocked laugh out of its audience.
James Gunn's background is in horror, and obviously so is Blumhouse's, one of the studios who made The Belko Experiment a reality.
And all of that comes through loud and clear in this movie. It's not a traditional horror movie, but many of the tropes of slasher films are there -- especially in the movie's pacing.
The film starts out as a slow-burn, and it feels like it might be more of a suspense- or conspiracy-minded film...but once the violence starts, the slow burn reaches a powder keg and it's not long before the whole thing is as out-of-control as any installment of Halloween or A Nightmare On Elm Street.