Tag Archives: John Gallagher Jr.

“The Belko Experiment”



Oh, what a great movie this could have been.

In what’s been described with mild accuracy as “Office Space” meets “Battle Royale,” “The Belko Experiment” is a bloody, gruesome and hyper violent exercise in indie cinema with an abundance of missed potential. Instead of striving for a masterpiece of comedy or a clever critique on workplace hierarchy and office politics, director Greg McLean and writer James Gunn instead opt for a disappointing, unimaginative bloodbath. It’s a cruelly savage tale of massacre and slaughter with no heft or meaning, just lots of blood.

What a letdown.

The plot is straightforward and unoriginal, and the film relies on its white collar world setting as the only mark of creativity. In a sick and twisted social experiment, an office full of 80 American employees are trapped inside their corporate high rise headquarters in Bogotá, Colombia. They must commit a certain number of murders per hour at the behest of an unknown voice broadcasting over the loudspeaker in the building. An all-out war soon ensues as the office becomes a splatter-filled playground of carnage in a contest for the survival of the fittest.

Movie like this are always a bit fun to watch (“The Hunger Games,” “The Condemned,” “The Running Man”) and I understand that nonstop violence can sometimes be a fun escape, but this movie misses the mark in a big way. For films like this to be truly compelling, the characters have to be sympathetic, driven and relatable in their will to survive and their eagerness to become murderers. It’s not the fault of the actors either, as there are some decent performances from John Gallagher Jr., Melonie Diaz and Adria Arjona, with Tony Goldwyn and John C. McGinley adding the best turns as two bosses gone rogue. Here we just get to watch as shallow, thinly scripted office workers are shot, stabbed, impaled, torn apart by hatchets, kicked to death, burned alive, and have their necks broken, all in a frantic assembly line fashion.

There are a couple of inspired ways that some of the associates meet the demise, including one guy who has his brains bashed in by a tape dispenser and several others getting the ultimate surprise of having their heads explode all over the break room. This is more of a straight up horror gore fest rather than a thoughtful or fun movie, and I left extremely disappointed in this colossal waste of potential.

“The Belko Experiment” is little more than dumbed down carnage that’s being marketed to educated genre fans and as a result, the project fails.




Maddie (Kate Siegel) is a writer who lives in a cabin in the woods. Having recently broken up with a longtime boyfriend, Maddie seeks the peace and solitude offered by the cabin. But it is this isolation that has made Maddie a target of a man in a mask (John Gallagher Jr.), who has come to kill her. The man takes his time toying with Maddie and stalking her, playing on her fears. The man takes his time in prolonging her fear of being stalked, taking full advantage of Maddie’s disability: as the man knows, Maddie is deaf.

“Hush” is a well-constructed slasher film of the home invasion variety. Writer / director Mike Flanagan (“Oculus”, “Absentia”) and his co-writer Siegel feed our universal fear of being attacked in our homes. As the classic final girl, Maddie is forced to use her wits to out-think the man, playing out each possible scenario and its flaws in her mind before choosing one. She makes bad and good ones, all the while frustrating the audience and forcing us to evaluate each of the options: if we were in Maddie’s shoes, what would we do?

The film is paced well, never outstaying its welcome. Unlike other recent films in the genre, it doesn’t heavily rely on jump scares, instead using light and darkness, and an economy of horrifying acts and gore, to its advantage. This movie has a remarkable sense of place, using the layout of Maddie’s home and its geography to maximum effect. The suspense and terror is organic and realistic, and the score is understated but effective.

If you’re looking for a good scare this October from a movie you can watch instantly on Netflix, right now, “Hush” is an excellent option.

Louisa was unavailable for review.

“10 Cloverfield Lane”



First things first: I promise to avoid giving away key plot points and surprises, so continue reading with confidence as this is a guaranteed spoiler-free zone. It’s best to avoid most online message boards and reviews so folks won’t ruin the film for you because the element of surprise is nearly all that “10 Cloverfield Lane” has going for it.

This film suffers from a severe identity crisis. It’s two distinct movies in one, each with a sort of uncomplimentary storyline. The first narrative is really strong, engrossing and (for the most part) entertaining; the second narrative is so bad that it nearly ruined the entire movie. This movie was pretty great until the final 20 minutes. It’s a shame because the majority of the film was effectively menacing, but the over-the-top, ridiculous finale just didn’t work for me.

John Goodman hams it up as Howard, a big, booming, mentally unstable survivalist who both imprisons and saves wounded traveler Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, once again proving herself to be one of today’s most underrated actresses) and good ol’ boy next door Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) from the danger that’s “out there.” Howard never divulges too many details about the attack but he guesses aloud that it could be the work of the Russians — or aliens. Thankfully he has been prepping for this day for years and has outfitted a mighty fine underground doomsday fallout shelter.

The best parts of the film happen in the claustrophobic bunker and the uncertainty of what to believe is effective and engaging (is menacing Howard a hero or a psycho)? The characters begin piecing together unsettling clues and decide to take a chance above ground and begin to plot their escape. Eventually all of this just goes on for way too long and the movie becomes a bunch of boring filler. As Howard grew more and more irate and agitated, I began to have a lot of those “gee, what would I do in this situation” moments throughout. I enjoy when a movie makes me see myself in the same predicament as its characters and has me weighing their same options (and clues). Is it better to stay underground with a nut or is it better to try to escape outside to something that may be far worse?

The film starts out strong and will keep you guessing the motives of slightly deranged Howard, but it ultimately ends with a stupid, unsatisfying, shaky-cam conclusion. I can best describe it as a mash-up of “Misery” and “Signs.” The movie is not as unsettling nor tense as the trailer leads you to believe: I’ve seen much better, much more suspenseful movies than this. There are a few cheap jump scares but I was never on the edge of my seat. “10 Cloverfield Lane” is predominantly a cinematic stunt rather than a cohesive work of art.


It’s really difficult to review this movie without giving anything away, but I’ll give it my best shot.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is a stylistic sequel to the 2008 movie “Cloverfield.” Which is to say, this movie tells a totally new story that has a similar feeling to the original, but it’s not at all a traditional sequel. It’s very effective at establishing an atmosphere of uncertainty. We are able to identify with the heroine, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but we aren’t sure about the other two main characters – we don’t know who they are (really), where they come from, or whether any of the things they say are true. It’s an interesting story and an even more interesting way to tell it.

I like movies like this one because it forces you to become an active viewer. Just like Michelle, we are constantly kept guessing. Howard (John Goodman) sounds genuine, but he also sounds more than a little crazy. But there are hints and clues that are just believable enough to make Howard’s incredible story credible, and just enough character traits that leave us uncertain about the sincerity of Howard’s actions. We learn more about Howard, and about the situation they find themselves in, at the same time Michelle does. When new information is revealed, we are forced to process it along with Michelle.

The downside of storytelling like this is that you need to have half a brain to understand what’s going on because this movie doesn’t tell you, it shows you. This can make for some confused audiences and, as a result, I predict mass transgressions against the first of the Moviegoer’s 10 Commandments in theaters this weekend.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” works because the protagonist is intelligent and believable. She thinks quickly and reacts to her circumstances realistically. She is inventive and pragmatic, and sees the world (and her counterparts) with experienced and wary eyes. You don’t get frustrated at Michelle making stupid choices, because she doesn’t. These are the reasons the movie works, and why it’s a little better than your run-of-the-mill genre picture.

It’s not a perfect movie; in particular, the big reveal is a little goofy and a bit of a letdown that detracts from what preceded it. But overall, it’s an enjoyable time at the movies.