TIFF is now in full swing and after two banging crime/action pictures (Ben Wheatley's Free Fire & The Mo Brothers Headshot), Midnight Madness saw its first horror picture of the programme, Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment.
Eighty employees of a corporate office in Colombia are locked inside their building and told via an unseen voice that they must kill or be killed.
Midnight is now officially on a roll here. As writer James Gunn said during the intro, this was a script he wrote ten years ago, then put away in a drawer, as he wasn't sure he wanted to make something that dark in tone. More recently, a few producer friends insisted it had to be made, and were fully on board with Gunn's only condition that they did not balk or water-down the material. As programmer Colin Geddes proclaimed, this was a movie that was made for this audience. And boy, was he right!
The easiest way to describe The Belko Experiment would be Office Space meets Battle Royale. If that doesn't sell you, I don't know what will. I think the thing that most stood out to me about this movie (other than the unapologetic violence of course) was how well McLean & Gunn complimented each other. When you mix together Gunn's grasp of character and quirk with McLean's mean and unrelenting sensibilities, you really get the best of both worlds, as no matter how dour the film became, it never missed an opportunity for black humour.
|John Gallagher Jr, and Adria Arjona in The Belko Experiment.|
The filmmakers could've turned this into a cartoon quite easily, but they knew that keeping it realistic would have much more of an impact. Gunn's assertion was that if he could make you care about the characters, then you'd be much more invested in what happened to them. He was not interested in doing “Saw 27”. And speaking of characters, it really helped that they populated the movie with some solid talent, including Tony Goldwyn, John Gallagher Jr, John C. McGinley and Brent Sexton. Gunn was also able to bring in some familiar faces in his brother Sean and Michael Rooker, as well.
|Director Greg McLean (left), writer James Gunn & actor Sean Gunn.|
There have been several genre pictures in recent years that concentrate on the de-evolution of human behaviour (Circle and a few re-enactments of The Stanford Experiment), but I think this was my favourite so far. It's well acted, evenly paced and doesn't flinch from the ugliness of its premise. I sincerely hope that McLean and Gunn work together again in the future, because I like where their heads are at.