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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [January 18, 2019]






[]  As a horror film, The Belko Experiment is highly unoriginal. Its plot structure is a basic horror conceit: the lifeboat scenario, in which a group of people are trapped in a situation, wherein, in order to survive, they must choose whether to cooperate or turn on each other. This basic conceit appears in Lifeboat, Lord of the Flies, and such Twilight Zone episodes as "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street."

And in many trashy, low-budget horror and sci-fi films.

In The Belko Experiment, 80 employees are trapped in an office building. Metal sheets have descended around the building, sealing in everyone (something we've seen before in Dredd, among other films). They are then ordered to murder two coworkers. Then 30 coworkers. How they choose the victims is up to them. But if they don't comply, twice as many will have their heads explode, due to previously implanted mini-bombs.

This notion of forcing random, ordinary people to murder each other was also used in the Saw series (among other films).

Who's behind this plot? Some unknown corporate or governmental organization. Why are they doing it? Nobody knows. This concept of a faceless bureaucracy tormenting people for no clear reason is reminiscent of the Cube series (among other films).

So, originality is absent from The Belko Experiment. The film is a decent time killer for hardcore horror fans. The gore and action scenes are well made. But this is not a great film. Not a deep film.

Yet, as I was watching, some observations occurred to me ...



The Belko Experiment could have been a deep film, with much philosophizing as characters debated the moral price of survival, and moral issues such as self-sacrifice, suicide, and being ordered (upon threat of death) to murder others. The characters could have debated a lottery, giving rise to a scenario as in Shirley Jackson's The Lottery. But there's none of that in this film. No deep dialog.

It led me to thinking. The Belko Experiment is an unintentional depiction of the post-Christian West. Eighty people face a great moral dilemma in Columbia, a once Catholic country. Yet none of them even once mentions, or appeals to, God, Christ, religion, or the possibility of reward or punishment in an afterlife. No one prays.

Naturally, the villains want only to survive. But even Mike (the film's moral voice) doesn't appeal to God. He can only advocate ungrounded ethics. Ungrounded, in the sense of "This isn't right!" -- but without any greater philosophical or theological basis for his claim. Because of this, his moral appeals are baseless assertions rather than reasoned arguments. Shallow and trite.





This is also a very PC film. The 80 people are diverse. Men and women, gay and straight, white, black, and brown. Yet all the villains -- those who organize to murder their coworkers, in order to save themselves -- are white men. All of them.

The film is also PC in its feminism. Overall (if not in every instance), the women are braver, smarter, and tougher than the men. When Mike insists that everyone should cooperate, and refuse to kill each other, his smarter girlfriend, Leandra, tells him that people aren't like that. That they will turn on each other. Leandra is proven correct.

Leander is not only smarter than the guys. She's tougher. She kicks ass, defeating men much bigger than herself -- even former special ops men -- despite being a petite gal with no training. She essentially saves Mike's life.

Likewise, the women are braver. When the villains select people to kill, one woman snarls at a villain not to touch her, a last stand of defiance before standing bravely against the wall. Instead, it's a man (a white man) who blubbers and begs to be spared, having to be dragged to the wall, before a villain just shoots him in disgust, right where he is.

The Belko Experiment is a reflection of our modern PC cultural zeitgeist. Evil white men. Kick-ass women. Zero Christianity. The filmmaker likely didn't do this consciously. He more likely absorbed these PC values, and regurgitated them without thought. The result on screen is ... not pretty.

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