The Belko Experiment

Vampire Owl: I hope this doesn’t turn out to be something like those experiments from Doctor Frankenstein.

Vampire Bat: Well, Mr. Frankenstein has not equal, and so, there is no relevance for such a question.

Vampire Owl: I have never really liked him. You know how much blood the vampire community has to donate for his cause. A number of blood banks have been left with minimum resources.

Vampire Bat: But, it is for building a better future, of the vampire community.

Vampire Owl: Why would he even try to do that? He is no vampire, and he is not even distantly related to our community.

Vampire Bat: He is a good scientist. He made a monster, and now he wants to make something good.

Vampire Owl: He experimented on himself to keep staying alive for this long!

Vampire Bat: Yes, which is how he became very useful to us.

Vampire Owl: But I doubt his inner motives, which he isn’t showing to us.

Vampire Bat: Even if there is something, it is going to be nothing in front of the Belko Experiment. I am sure about that.

[Gets three cups of Vagamon tea with a piece of green apple cake].

What is the movie about? :: Belko Industries a vey famous American-based non-profit organisation which has branches all over the world, and facilitates American companies in South America in hiring American workers. It is a popular choice among freshers when looking for jobs, and has a high reputation everywhere. It is at one of its lesser known branches, the office building in Bogota, Colombia, which is located at a rural or rather remote setting that Mike Milch (John Gallagher Jr) and his girlfriend Leandra Florez (Adria Arjona) works. They find it strange tha there is a long queue in front of the office with the Colombian local workers being sent back, and new people being in charge of security. The two, along with the other employees including the newest employee Dany (Melonie Diaz) are all there, and when the last of the employees get into the office, things change.

So, what happens next in the movie? :: After the final employee is inside the office, a voice asks everyone to kill two of the co-workers in half an hour of time, or they will randomly chosen and killed. The building is covered by steel shutters from all sides, and all phones including the mobiles stop working – everything is cut off, including the air conditioning. The company’s chief operating officer Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn) try to tell everyone that there is nothing to panic. But it is him who panics first as the head of four employees are blown, and he, along with two other workers, Wendell Dukes (John C. McGinley) and Terry Winters (Owain Yeoman) decide that it is only fair that they kill a few people if it is all that takes to make sure that they keep living for a longer period of time. Mike tries to take the tracer off with a knife, but the people in control finds out what is being done to the tag, and warns him against doing the same.

And what is to follow with a twist of events? :: They realise that the Colombian workers were sent back home, because only the American employees had the tracer put in them to find them in case they were kidnapped in another nation, and so only they could be manipulated here. The announcement is no longer considered a prank, as things turn too serious – thirty of them are to be dead within two hours in one way or the other, or sixty people will be killed, according to the voice. Barry, along with this newfound friends tries to get the weapons stored within, so that they can kill according to the demands of the voice, while Mike who is against it, along with his girlfriend, and the only remaining security guard Evan Smith (James Earl), as well as the tech worker Keith McLure (Josh Brener), tries to hang banners from the top of the building, only to get shot at, by the special guards outside. With people losing patience as well as hope, how many will be dead, and who all will survive?

The defence of The Belko Experiment :: This is one movie that begins the adventure right from the initial stages itself, and goes on to continue well right into the experiment within the building. There are so many thrilling moments in this movie, and it has us guessing what is to happen next for most of the time – as we know that there is no escape, and with a short run-time, things are surely progressing rather quickly. There is a fine concept at work here, and we once again get to see how much each person wishes to live, at the cost of the lives of others around. It is quite thought-provoking without doubt, and we keep wondering about our situation. Maybe this movie is more human than the rest of the movies, with people looking to earn money, and survive, with that survival getting a new meaning here – some of them just live up-to that too. The cast, as a whole works pretty good for this one, even though there is nothing big.

The claws of flaw :: There is a certain kind of predictability that comes in through the middle, going on, and there is also the limitation coming in, with not that much tried with its setting right inside a building. With people caught inside a huge building without any option to escape, and having chips inside their heads ready to be blasted, there was not that much of an option left – if there was at least one path left free, it would have been more interesting; without escape routes, this is rather one-sided, thus the movie removing its own options. There is a certain amount of sadism in this movie, which puts people against one another, and in the situation which make them kill or be killed, we feel the survival of the fittest in an office. The inherent evil in man comes out with a number of people here too. In this movie, we are without hope, and its sadistic experiment on human nature is something that not many people can stand. Better execution to keep the balance, maybe?

How it finishes :: The Belko Experiment is another one of those movies involving experiments, but not on the lines of Morgan or Ex Machina, as this one looks out for social behaviour rather than anything else. But in the end, we humans just got to give in to one thing or the other, whether it is is science, politics, religion or whatever else. There is all the action that happens in a building, the thrills, and along the violence, this movie leaves you with something to think about. Those people who are looking for some different horror or more of thrillers, are surely going to love this one. Among those movies which seem to go rather the same way, there is The Belko Experiment which travels a strange and depressing path, which is is more or less a reflection of human nature – darkness falls into humanity too easily when facing terror, doesn’t it? You don’t need much of an experiment to prove the same on most occasions.

Release date: 17th March 2017
Running time: 88 minutes
Directed by: Greg McLean
Starring: John Gallagher Jr, Adria Arjona, Melonie Diaz, Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley, Josh Brener, Michael Rooker, David Del Rio, Stephen Blackehart, Rusty Schwimmer, Owain Yeoman, Sean Gunn, Abraham Benrubi, David Dastmalchian, Gail Bean, Valentine Miele, Joe Fria, Benjamin Byron Davis, James Earl. Cindy Better, Kristina Lilley, Maruia Shelton, Brent Sexton, Mikaela Hoover, Lorena Tobar, Gamal Dillard, Gregg Henry

PS: The best of lesser known horror is at The Autopsy of Jane Doe.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Divergent

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Dystopia, the weakness :: The more relevant opinions should say that the weakness that haunts the world is more related to vampire romance, something which completely destroys the purpose of existence of vampires, no wonder Louis de Pointe du Lac felt that his life was pointless, and Anne Rice might have had a good idea what was to come next when she sat down to write Interview With the Vampire and all those works which followed in The Vampire Chronicles. Now, dystopia has risen to a level which is close to the vampire romance, and thanks to The Hunger Games, the scope for such fiction is proved immense; one has to agree that even Stephenie Meyer’s The Host and its movie adaptation had an extended feeling of dystopia enforced by the aliens. My first idea of dystopia came from Stephen King’s The Running Man which I read long ago, and that 1987 movie of the same name, Arnold Schwarzenegger and María Conchita Alonso. A dystopian America sells quite well. Even mindless movies like Escape from New York worked very well (questioned only by its own sequel Escape from L.A.) and now we know what a safe territory is, even safer than some vampire romance which can coin the terms like “still a better love story than Twilight“.

What is it about? :: The story is set in a future Chicago as the world has transformed into a dystopia inside walls. The society has been divided into five factions with five different qualities, Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (honest), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (fearless). The factionless were to live a hopeless life. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) has grown up in Abnegation with her parents and brother, and it was the faction that run the government. Its selflessness was proven by their work in taking care of the poor, the sick and the factionless. To the surprise and sadness of their parents, her brother chooses Erudite and she chooses Dauntless, even as she does know that she is a “divergent” who has different qualities and such a person is considered a threat to the current social order in the dystopia. Christina (Zoë Kravitz) and Al (Christian Madsen), two former Candors, and Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), a former Erudite joins her friends group as she struggles to go on with an environment with which she is not familiar. She starts off at the bottom of the list threatened to be thrown out, but slowly begins to make her way up with the help of the instructor Four (Theo James). Soon, there will be more secrets to be unveiled though.

The defence of Divergent :: Another world awaits you in Divergent, a world which you are not unaware of, but it is still a world which you will enjoy once again – it is that kind of a world which gathers a dimension for just curiosity itself and thrives on it like Count Dracula on drop of blood. In the beginning itself, they show a huge fence, seemingly electrical along with skyscrapers which seems to have survived some Armageddon which ravished a lot of the known world. Its themes are many and its world nicely detailed with some nice effects added here and there. The post-apocalyptic city is really nice, with a train running through the centre and buildings connected with some kind of mechanical technology. The action sequences are nice and realistic, and the final combat scenes are well done. There is melee combat as well as shooting, and a lot more during the time of training for the fearless ones. The idea of the divergent among the factions is nicely developed out of something which we are all familiar with – the rebellion in the dystopia. The leap of faith moment and the initiation in style are two things I loved more than the rest.

The claws of flaw :: This movie is quite a lot like The Hunger Games, and explores a similar setting with a dystopia and training of young people to be capable for violence and if possible, inflict death upon the enemies. There is no deathmatch here, but there is that capture the flag (Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena fans check!). Being alienated is becoming far too common a thing these days as corruption in politics, the worst of such thing inflicted upon us by Kristen Stewart’s Isabella Swann. The movie’s faction choosing ceremony reminds us of the four houses of Harry Potter, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin and Hufflepuff. Remember the choosing of jobs in City of Ember? That should be another memory slowly coming out forced by the incident. The movie could have tried something innovative to have its own identity which would look entirely different from the rest. But taking the safe path was going to be more suitable for the first movie of a possible trilogy with a possible extensions due to divisions. But one can be sure that all the flaws of the whole franchise might be lesser than those from just one half of any movie of the Twilight series, especially the latter ones. Mortal Instruments: City of Bones did come with more flaws, but that was pure nonsense.

Performers of the Soul :: There was the awesome Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games, and one might not be able to place anyone else in her place with a similar setting around. But Shailene Woodley is very close, and she is so good as the character that one feels almost of the same feeling for Beatrice Prior that was felt for Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire. Shailene has almost everything that the Twilight heroine lacked, and she makes sure that Beatrice is never out of control. She fits into that world right from the beginning and gives us one of the best female protagonists in a dystopia. She has great moments and wonderful lines in a movie which depends so much on her performance and she delivers. She is not just the cute face right there. It is sad that Kate Winslet had so less to do in a role which was about being a mastermind villain from the faction of intelligence. The same can be said about Maggie Q who is just there to be there! Ashley Judd’s existence itself is her presence in the movie. Theo James does his role nicely, and finishes strong as the trainer and the lover. I will leave special mention for Zoë Kravitz as Christina who looked and acted wonderfully throughout the movie.

Soul exploration :: The movie has a lot of themes being explored in it, both directly and indirectly in its world. The whole division into four factions according their qualities and job is more like the ancient caste system itself, but lets not go further into that. In the case of factions, there are people who think different and has the ability to go against this order which forms the core of this dystopia – they are the divergents, to be better known as the rebels. As such a world is lead by the sympathetic faction, one can only wonder how long before two others, the brains and the muscle power can take over. So we need the divergents. What about our current society? Don’t we need them as a dystopia always threaten to happen in one place or the other? Haven’t such “different” people contributed a lot more to the world than the normal ones? When I was in school, I was to expect to join one of the two factions, engineering and medicine, with the two hidden faction, commerce and management – where did I join? Well, I had to diverge, and that had to be dauntless. That was just an example, but lets choose to be different rather than fit into groups with difficulty. Lets just not take the violence in the movie with it.

How it finishes :: Based on Veronica Roth’s Divergent, the movie present us with another dystopian world to ponder over. Even as I haven’t read any work by her, this does seem to work quite well. Being the opposite of utopia, dystopia always had the power to keep the readers and viewers interested. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin told us the story of a world which is slave to logic and machines, completely against any kind of creativity. George Orwell gave us more in his Nineteen Eighty-Four. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World might be the title which comes to the mind of most people. Remember Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange too. There are lots of such novels which has explored the themes related to dystopia in a powerful way. Divergent takes a leap into the same, but not exactly in the same way. I don’t know about the book, but the movie does fine as it throws at the audience everything it got. The visual media has been nicely used for the same purpose. It released here late, and as this is a festival season full of regional movies, the movie won’t do that well here, and the shows are limited too – quite the bad time of the year to release this one here!

PS: Don’t read the name as “Detergent” because one of my friends did! 😀

Release date: 11th April 2014 (India); 21st March 2014 (US)
Running time: 139 minutes
Directed by: Neil Burger
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Maggie Q

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.