Belko Experiment Discussed Explained and Argued
The Belko Experiment is not for everyone. But if you like your endings with a side of left hook, this might be for you.... IMDB
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The morning after I watched the Belko Experiment, my daughter, asked how my evening was. I said it was a good night, that I watched a movie. “Oh? What was the movie about?” So I began to explain. A group of people are trapped in their workplace, in a high rise, and couldn’t get out. Then it comes out that their captors start demanding that they kill each other. And really, it becomes a king of the hill struggle to survive.

My daughter looks at me and says, and you wanted to watch this movie? Which gave me pause. And I reviewed everything that I had just said to her. I saw it all from her own eyes. And then I rewatched the movie in ultra-fast-forward, but this time through her eyes. Why did I want to watch this movie? But then I heard myself saying to her, “Soon, you’ll start taking Philosophy courses and you find yourself pondering terrible and horrible moral questions and you’ll need to decide for yourself what you would do if placed in these crazy extreme circumstances. And this? This is the discussion of good and of evil. It is the discussion of right and wrong that I enjoy so much.” She then cocked her head at me, and with a look she let me know that my justification made no sense whatsoever, that she thought I was insane.

Which is probably a great consideration to ponder before you watch this movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, I don’t know if I would recommend it unless the philosophy of it all is more important than the splatter factor. But I’ll leave that up to you. Regardless, I’m going to dive way deep – as I always do – and ponder the ins and outs of this movie… so if you haven’t seen it, watch this trailer, and decide for yourself. Then come back later if you choose to watch it.

Belko Experiment Deep Dive

What is Belko?!? That was my first question as the movie started. I knew just enough about what was about to happen that I was furiously searching for clues as to where we are and what was going on. Apparently, Belko was a non-profit NGO, that supports for-profit companies in their efforts to hire quality workers throughout Latin America. We see that the local workers were being turned away at the gates? Only the Americans stay? (Don’t worry, we’ll get to that bit later.)

Soon the movie really starts, and the facility is locked down. The windows are locked. The doors locked. There is no way in, or out, as we will learn later. It is so locked down that the metal wasn’t even hot after hitting it with a welder’s torch. Really? Is there something else going on here? Don’t worry, we’ll talk about this detail later.

Belko Experiment Rules Detailed

Very quickly Belko establishes the rules and the details of how our experience is going to work. Seeing as though it’s a closed box movie, it’s extraordinarily important that the rules are established quickly. I mean, we have covered a ton of closed box movies like Belko Experiment. The Exam was a fun one, and I even had a chance to interview director Stuart Hazeldine about his rules and the details of his closed structure. Or better yet, the movie Circle, which was so closed a box, that it was almost claustrophobic. Or even Coherence, that made it seem like an open movie, but actually was a closed box movie all along. And like these other movies the rules of Belko were established early. And here they are:

  1. Don’t dismantle cameras
  2. Don’t remove trackers
  3. Do anything you have to in order to survive

The cameras are the eyes of the experiment. The trackers are the ultimate control of the guinea pigs. And the voice over the PA is the ultimate control of you and the next level of demands that need to be met. First order, kill three. Second order, “there are 76 of you, in the next two hours, we want 30 of you dead.”  The carnage ensues. Eventually the group gets down to 29 killed, one short of their goal… so they are sitting at 47 living. And then 30 people and their trackers in their head explodes. And now we are at 17 people living.

Then another announcement comes over the PA – “One hour left. Whoever gets the most kills survives. Barry Norris, 11, Wendell 7, etc…” When only the COO (Barry Norris) and Mike Milch (our moralist hero) are left, Mike kills Barry as he yells at Mike that he was no different than himself. Mike grabs the bombs that were pulled from the people that had been killed in other ways. And then after he wins the game, he is taken back to the control room and he finds out that Belko believes that they are social scientists who believe they should be allowed to study human behavior unfettered by conventional rules or laws.

End stage 1

Commence stage 2

And that is how the movie ends, with Mike looking at the other monitors of a vast array of other competitions. So the implication is that he will be (or would have been) a competitor in another round among other winners of other competitions. Right? Isn’t that what you took away from the ending? Which, is an intriguing leap from the ending of the movie Circle. We posited over in that discussion that it probably was all the winners of all the different competitions standing there staring up at the UFOs. Oh shoot, if you haven’t seen that movie yet, sorry! Go watch it. If you dig Belko, you will really really like Circle. It may in fact actually be better than Belko.

The Philosophical Conversation

Philosophy 101 didn’t happen in this movie as much as I had hoped for. Battle Royale, this movie’s great grandparent discussed the philosophy more. And even in the movie Circle there were tons of questions about who should be voted off the island and who should stay. Race, age, infirmities, all were discussed in Circle. I guess there was one scene, when the COO began sorting people in the room. You to the right wall, you to the left. But it wasn’t quite enough to really make the gratuitous killing really make sense intellectually.

I did enjoy that really great conversation between Mike Milch and the COO, Barry Norris, towards the beginning of the two hour window to kill 30. “We need options, we need a plan. We have to be bold here, my wife and kids need me, this isn’t a time for timidity, do you agree?” Says Mr. Big Wig. And Mike responds with… “There’s nothing to talk about. We are not going to kill anyone.” And Mr. Norris kept pushing it, no, we should have a plan at the very least. But every viewer everywhere knew what he was up to. He wants to make sure that he is at the top of the pile come the end of the day. Right?

When I discussed with my daughter what she would do in that situation she said, nothing. Which, I thought was the perfect solution. I’m absolutely not killing someone else, right? In real life? If the walls slam down and some omnipresent voice tells me to kill someone else or die, I choose die. Granted, not the sexiest Hollywood experience. But it is what it is. Realistically though – what do you do? Hide. Protect yourself? It’s a fascinating question. But at the end of the day, the circumstances do not alter what is right, and what is wrong. If it is wrong for me to kill you today. Then tomorrow, when you have a shotgun to my face, it’s still not ok to kill you. We like to justify it as self defense… but is it wrong, or is it right?

Belko Experiment Movie Theories

Deranged Lunatic CEO Theory – There has to be a literal view of the movie theory in here somewhere and this is that somewhere. Why would a corporation derail like this and go over the deep end? Well, maybe it was a Hitler-like crazed person with a global idea for how to take his corporation and turn it into a massively sadistic experiment. Literally, the CEO is Hitler or something like that, someone intent on shaping all of the human race into a group of killers.

Job Interview Theory – What if this Belko Experiment is actually a job interview experiment wherein Belko is crafting and honing a certain type of employee? This isn’t without precedent. I mean, look at the movie The Exam. That is EXACTLY what happened in that movie. (Just go watch it too. Shoot.) It is one big interview process. Right? What if? Hrm.

The Water Theory – It’s in the water.

“Wait, what was this last theory?” “Huh what?” “The ‘water theory'” “Exactly.”

Alien Invasion Experiment – When the two guys with the welder’s torches go at the metal on the windows, and they realize that the metal isn’t even conductive, like at all, I had an idea. What if this wasn’t an experiment run by humans? What if it was the beginnings of an alien invasion that are testing our capabilities, our morals. Our limitations. Etc? What if? On this site we have discussed a number of movies that derive from this theory. The Signal being the most obvious example. The Cube being another take on the vantage. Oh, and Dark City being another. (Look, if you haven’t seen these movies – and they are old – you can’t blame me for talking about them, dangit. Watch more movies! Hang out here more often! I’m always talking about crazy new movies. You won’t lag so far behind! hahahaha.)

I don’t know, what are your thoughts? I liked Belko. And yet, it wasn’t as deep a thinker person’s movie as I would normally prefer. It definitely seemed a bit gratuitous. But they didn’t take it places they could have gone with some of the darkness out there. Right? There was no real racism or sexism or rape happening. Which, was this movie’s saving grace. I definitely would have bounced out if it even hinted that direction.

Edited by, CY

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7 Responses

  1. Shelby

    “But at the end of the day, the circumstances do not alter what is right, and what is wrong.”

    I definitely disagree. Circumstances are everything. Things are rarely just black and white.

    Reply
      • Shelby

        Not what I said, but there are circumstances where murder is justified. If someone has a gun to my head I should have more options than to just die. Belko presents a very interesting philosophical debate that I think warrants a real discussion beyond “murder is wrong so everyone will just have to die to avoid doing something immoral.”

      • Taylor Holmes

        Fair. It definitely is an interesting conversation, and it’s really the only reason I posted it here. Because there isn’t a white answer or a black answer – but something else.

        First it’s a movie. So, the moral question is, generally speaking, thrown out the window. So my even asking the question was just a Philosophy 101 move. When we watch Die Hard, we don’t think… morally… would we kill Hans Gruber at the end? Really? It just isn’t a thing. Belko though, is, 100%, beginning to end, a Philosophy 101 question dressed up as a movie. If you were in a life raft, and the life raft was sinking because there were too many in the life raft… who would you kick out of the life raft first? (Granted, Circle is a much better Philosophical question, but Belko still ranks right up there.)

        So, Shelby, you say, win the game? Do whatever? I mean, real world Shelby, not Hollywood Heroine Shelby. You head into work, and the place locks down, and the tannoy goes off and says, the killing begins now or else everyone dies. You are like… sweet. Judy is first. CANNOT STAND THAT WOMAN. Never mind the fact that I have a wrench in my hand, and she has a stapler. That is more the moral question I was sort of grappling with. Yeah, it’s a stupid question. But whatever. That’s all I talk about on this site is stupid questions.

      • Shelby

        It’s a good question but one I cannot answer. What I think I would do and what I would actually do may be two very different things. Just look at Milgram’s obedience experiment or Zimbardo’s prison experiment…those participants probably thought they would never do the things they ended up doing. We don’t truly know ourselves until we are pushed.

        That being said, my first thought was that they don’t want survivors so I would do whatever I could to ensure a quick death (having my brain explode is better than someone stabbing me 27 times). But who knows. Hopefully we never find out.

  2. Taylor Holmes

    Lover your Milgram and Zimbardo references. Even thinking about how I would play the game of survivor I know it would be different than I assume because you layer on top of everything massive fatigue, hunger, and intentional stressors… who knows what I would do even there and my life isn’t on the line. I think my original point in the post (who knows, I haven’t even read it since I wrote it!) was that there was only one guy in the whole movie who was sort of saying… uh? Morals? Anyone? This is a non-starter!

    Reply
  3. Neil omictin

    I would have said it is not okay to kill someone but if I am on that situation I might kill for survival or probably I’ll hide and pray, anyways being blown up in the head is less painful than being hacked up. It is just like war, nobody loves war but if someone threatens us or even our family we will signed up to kill….

    Reply

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