After a breezy introduction which sets up the main characters and the appropriate office politics rather nicely, The Belko Experiment gets down to its blood-soaked business long before it can be project managed out of existence (I can say this, I've been a Project Manager). People lose their heads - literally - when the first target isn't reached, the ante is upped, sides are taken.
At the centre of the mayhem is your average office schmo Mike Milch (Gallagher Jr.), a guy who just wants to get by and please as many people as he can even when there's worker genocide on the menu. His girlfriend Leandra (Arjona) isn't quite as accommodating when faced with the prospect of random, splattery, cranium-exploding death but she's positively tree-hugging compared to colleague Wendell Dukes (John C. McGinley turning the psycho dial up to 11) whose initial, barely concealed sociopathic tendencies give way to hacking people to bits with meat cleavers faster than you can say "That guy's got a meat cleaver".
Running a tight 89 minutes, The Belko Experiment doesn't dally too long with discussions about who has the right to live, who's on the list to die and who has the right to play God in this situation. As with almost all business discussions anywhere ever, any debate is generally curtailed before it gets anywhere, but this time it's by another announcement requesting that more people have to be bumped off. At its core this isn't a film which is going to let itself get bogged down in moralising, it's a stripped-down, gory thrill ride and it delivers some startling, wince-inducing violence at regular intervals (UK readers, there's a very good reason why it's rated 18). Some of this violence involves, yes, office supplies. I'll never look at a sellotape dispenser in quite the same way again.
This is all carried along by a rather impressive cast and, for the more cine literate out there, trades somewhat upon knowledge of the performers' previous roles. For instance, Michael Rooker. Got to be playing a murderous nutjob, right? Well....just watch the movie to find out. Elsewhere, Tony Goldwyn scores as a calm, calculating boss who may just be about to take all of his rational decision-making processes to the Nth degree, Sean Gunn is amusingly annoying as Grade-A stoner Marty and Melonie Diaz fits the "surely they can't kill her, can they?" role of new starter Dany perfectly.
It's not an unfamiliar set-up and the usual questions are there (for instance, will the office nice guy suddenly snap and start killing people?) but this takes an approach which is fresh enough to shake off most of the potential clichés. James Gunn's script - yes, that James Gunn, about to unleash the second Guardians of the Galaxy outing - is brutally efficient, dispensing some killer one-liners as the bodies pile up. The final moments, not to give anything away, are an absolute hoot and a rather fitting way to round things off.
It may not be the most subtle of movies out there right now but if you can hang on to your lunch The Belko Experiment is easily one of the most entertaining and for this horror fan it was something of an unexpected treat. Also, it's nice to see director Greg McLean right back on gloriously gory form after trying, but not quite succeeding, to generate scares from the disappointing possessed rock snorefest The Darkness.