The Belko Experiment

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The Belko Experiment
The Belko Experiment poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Greg McLean
Produced by
Written by James Gunn
Music by Tyler Bates
Cinematography Luis David Sansas
Edited by Julia Wong
Distributed by
Release date
  • September 10, 2016 (2016-09-10) (TIFF)
  • March 17, 2017 (2017-03-17) (United States)
Running time
89 minutes[3]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5 million[4]
Box office $11.1 million[4]

The Belko Experiment is a 2016 American horror-thriller film directed by Greg McLean and written by James Gunn. The film stars John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, John C. McGinley and Melonie Diaz. Filming began on June 1, 2015, in Bogotá, Colombia. The film premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2016 and was released in the United States on March 17, 2017, by Blumhouse Tilt and Orion Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics and has grossed $11 million worldwide, against its $5 million budget.


Mike Milch (John Gallagher Jr.), an employee of Belko Industries, arrives at his remote office building in rural Bogotá, Colombia, to find unfamiliar security guards turning away the local Colombian staff at the gate. New employee Dany Wilkins (Melonie Diaz) reports for her day on the job, and is told that a tracking device is implanted in the base of every Belko employee's skull in case they are kidnapped. This is common in Colombia due to the high incidence of kidnapping.

Evan Smith (James Earl), Belko's head security guard, does not know who the new security guards are. Once the eightieth employee shows up, a voice on the intercom instructs the co-workers to kill two of their co-workers, or else four workers will be killed at random. Several staff attempt to flee the building, but steel shutters seal off the walls and doors, locking them all in. They ignore the announcement at first, believing it to be a prank, but four employees die when explosives hidden in their trackers detonate and blow their heads apart. Mike attempts to remove his tracker with a box cutter. Warned by the voice that he too will die unless he stops, he gives up.

The group is told that unless thirty of them are dead within two hours, sixty will be killed. They split into two factions, one led by Mike who believes that there should be no killing, and chief operating officer boss Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn) who intends to follow the directions in order to save himself. Barry and his group attempt to burn off the lock of the armory in order to gain access to its weapons. Mike and his group, including his girlfriend Leandra Florez (Adria Arjona), Evan and employees Keith (Josh Brener), Leota (Gail Bean), Peggy (Rusty Schwimmer), Vince (Brent Sexton) and Roberto (David Del Rio), try to hang banners from the roof as a call for help, but soldiers outside shoot at them. Barry, executive Wendell (John C. McGinley), and employee Terry (Owain Yeoman) ambush the group in the stairway, kill Evan and take his keys to the armory.

With his group now armed, Barry and Wendell select thirty people, including Mike and Peggy, forcing them to kneel in a line. He begins executing them with a gunshot to the back of the head. Dany, who has been hiding in the basement, sees what is happening and shuts off the building's lights before Mike and several others can be killed. During this, Dany goes into the elevator shaft with Roberto.

Barry and Wendell hunt down the fleeing employees as the voice informs them that only twenty-nine have been killed. The two-hour time limit runs out and Terry, Leota, Peggy and Keith, along with twenty-seven other employees, have their trackers explode, leaving only 16 survivors. They are then informed by the voice that, as a final task, the employee who has killed the most people within an hour will be spared. Barry finds Dany and Roberto in the elevator shaft, but Dany escapes while Roberto is crushed and killed in the elevator shaft. Two employees, Marty (Sean Gunn) and Chet (Abraham Benrubi) collect the un-exploded trackers from the heads of people who have died by other methods, planning to use them to blow up the wall. However, they are killed by Wendell. Leandra kills Wendell, and Barry kills Vince and Dany. He then shoots Leandra, who dies shortly after. Mike and Barry are left as the only two survivors.

In a rage, Mike kills Barry with a tape dispenser. The building is then unsealed, as he is the last survivor, and the soldiers escort him to the hangar next door. There, he meets the owner of the voice (Gregg Henry), who introduces himself as a social scientist who believes that discoveries about human nature can only come from placing people in extreme environments. As he and his colleagues begin to question Mike about his emotional and mental state, Mike notices a panel of switches that correspond to the eighty employees. Having planted the trackers that Marty collected on the soldiers and the Voice, he flips every switch except his own. The trackers explode, killing the soldiers and wounding the Voice, before Mike grabs a gun and kills the remaining scientists. The Voice attempts to reason with Mike but Mike kills him. He then leaves the warehouse in a state of shock. The view zooms out to reveal that Mike is one of many sole survivors from similar experiments, being watched by another group through security cameras. A new voice states "end stage one" and "commence stage two."


  • Alvaro Garcia as Jonathan Schwarts
  • Joe Fria as Tyson Moon


James Gunn began writing the film after waking up from a dream of an office building being enclosed in metal walls and hearing a voice instruct employees to kill each other. Initially Gunn wrote the film (as The Belco Experiment) prior to directing the 2010 film Super, although he backed away from the project once it got greenlit, owing to getting a divorce around the same time.[15] Says Gunn "I just wanted to be around my friends and family. I didn't want to go shoot this thing that was about people who loved and cared about each other being forced into killing each other. It just didn't seem to be the way I wanted to spend the next few months of my life. So I backed out of it."[15] As Gunn's name became bigger and bigger he had "kind of forgotten about it" until he received a call from Jon Glickman at MGM asking if he would still be interested in making it.[15]

Much of the cast was announced in May 2015 including John Gallagher Jr.,[5] Tony Goldwyn,[6] and Melonie Diaz.[9] More joined the cast in June, including David Del Rio, Stephen Blackehart, Josh Brener, and Rusty Schwimmer.[10]


Principal photography on the film began on June 1, 2015, in Bogotá, Colombia.[16][17] and concluded on July 12, 2015.[18]


The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2016.[19] Shortly after, Blumhouse Tilt and Orion Pictures acquired U.S distribution rights to the film, and set it for a March 17, 2017, release.[20][21] It was released to UK theaters on April 15, 2017.[22]

The film was promoted through a series of four claymation shorts directed by Lee Hardcastle which, according to website io9 (where they debuted), "features exaggerated versions of The Belko Experiment’s characters, and offers a taste of the level of violence and humor you’ll see when the actual movie opens".[23] The movie was also promoted with a video game, "'Belko Experiment’ Escape Room in VR" released for virtual reality platforms.[24]

Box office[edit]

In the United States and Canada, The Belko Experiment was released alongside Beauty and the Beast and was projected to gross around $4 million in its opening weekend.[25] It made $305,000 from Thursday night previews and $1.5 million on its first day. It went on to open to $4.1 million, finishing 7th at the box office.[26]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 52% based on 87 reviews, with an average rating of 5.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Belko Experiment offers a few moments of lurid fun for genre enthusiasts, but lacks enough subversive smarts to consistently engage once the carnage kicks in."[27] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the film has a score 44 out of 100, based on 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[28]


  1. ^ "Film releases". Variety Insight. Archived from the original on March 17, 2017. Retrieved June 26, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d "The Belko Experiment". Variety. Retrieved March 18, 2018. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b "The Belko Experiment (2017)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved April 4, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b Dave McNary (May 18, 2015). "James Gunn Taps 'Newsroom' Star John Gallagher Jr. for 'Belko Experiment'". Variety. Retrieved June 3, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Hipes, Patrick (May 19, 2015). "Tony Goldwyn Joins 'The Belko Experiment' Movie From James Gunn". Deadline. Retrieved June 3, 2015. 
  7. ^ "James Gunn on Twitter: "I'd like to welcome the magically talented @adriaarjonaa and @OYeoman to the cast of #TheBelkoExperiment!"". Twitter. Retrieved May 27, 2015. 
  8. ^ "John C. McGinley Joins 'The Belko Experiment'; 'The Magnificent Seven' Adds Two". Deadline. May 21, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Hipes, Patrick (May 20, 2015). "Melonie Diaz Joins 'Belko Experiment'; Sam Hazeldine Cast In 'The Huntsman'". Deadline. Retrieved June 3, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f "James Gunn on Twitter: "Meet #TheBelkoExperiment's employees @David_DelRio, Josh Brener, Rusty Schwimmer @blackehart"". Twitter. Retrieved June 3, 2015. 
  11. ^ a b c d Barton, Steve (May 29, 2015). "Several More Sign Up for The Belko Experiment". Dread Central. Retrieved June 30, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c d "James Gunn – Okay. My fingers are getting worn out from..." Facebook. Retrieved June 3, 2015. 
  13. ^ Dave McNary (May 22, 2015). "'Walking Dead' Star Michael Rooker Joins 'Belko Experiment'". Variety. Retrieved June 3, 2015. 
  14. ^ "IMDb page for project". IMDb Pro. IMDb. Retrieved July 21, 2016. 
  15. ^ a b c Kaye, Don. "James Gunn Talks The Belko Experiment, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2". Den of Geek. Retrieved March 11, 2017. 
  16. ^ McMillan, Graeme (March 31, 2015). "James Gunn Unveils Film Project 'The Belko Experiment'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 4, 2015. 
  17. ^ "On the Set for 6/1/15: James Gunn Starts Shooting 'The Belko Experiment', Michael Keaton Begins Mcdonald's Biopic 'The Founder' & More". June 1, 2015. Archived from the original on April 22, 2016. Retrieved June 1, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Greg McLean on Twitter". Twitter. 
  19. ^ "The Belko Experiment". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved September 11, 2016. 
  20. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (September 11, 2016). "Finally! A Toronto Deal! BH Tilt Lands Orion's 'The Belko Experiment'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 11, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Untitled Blumhouse Tilt Horror". Movie Insider. Retrieved September 11, 2016. 
  22. ^ Lee, Benjamin. The Belko Experiment Review, The Guardian (15 March 2017)
  23. ^ Lussier, Germain. "These Belko Experiment Claymation Shorts Are Disgusting in the Best Possible Way". IO9. Retrieved 17 March 2017. 
  24. ^ Miska, Brad. "They Made a 'Belko Experiment' Escape Room in VR, and it's Free!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 17 March 2017. 
  25. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (March 14, 2017). "Millions Around The World Will Be Guests Of Disney's 'Beauty And The Beast' – Box Office Preview". Deadline Hollywood. 
  26. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro. "'Beauty And The Beast' $174.8M Opening Sparks Moviegoing Explosion; Pic Could Conquer 'Rogue One' & 'Dark Knight'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 22, 2017. 
  27. ^ "The Belko Experiment (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 31, 2017. 
  28. ^ "The Belko Experiment reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved March 16, 2017. 

External links[edit]