Tom likes to write, read, watch, listen, and all that jazz. he's pretty boring.

THE BELKO EXPERIMENT, and the Cult Classic That Almost Was


The Belko Experiment contains plenty of comedy and violence and satire and craziness, and it's a movie about the way people react to a social environment when their lives are threatened. Ultimately, what the movie tells us, is this: everyone's out for themselves. I mean the guy who survives is a pacifist... until he isn't; he survives, but the love of his life is dead and he's gone against his moral code -- so what is the movie trying to tell us here? Ashes, ashes, we all fall down?

So there's this running thread that people will look out for themselves above all else, because survival is instinctual, it's human nature, but if we can find like-minded individuals who share our point-of-view, well, of course we're gonna band together, at least for a while. So the "good" and "bad" groups divide. However, split somewhere between these two divided factions is Melonie Diaz's character, Dany. Dany doesn't take sides -- she hides, stays quiet, keeps to herself. She doesn't let anyone persuade her to do something that won't benefit her. She kills, but only if it's absolutely necessary -- meaning if she's in immediate danger. She doesn't rat anyone out; she doesn't stalk and kill. She depends on the mercy of another in one moment, and she seems willing to hide the truth of a murder in another moment, in order to allow her escape from a dangerous situation.

I loved Dany! She is what human instinct is all about. You don't have to "put yourself out there" one way or the other to survive. If survival is the point of it all, she should've been deemed "the winner." She represents both the good and the bad of humanity -- our inclination towards both kindness and selfishness.

Mike Milch's survival (played by John Gallagher, Jr) feelslike a sort of Moral Karma at play, because he's the most openly noble character we meet. I don't find that angle very interesting. Also, don't his actions feed, however accidentally, into the strengthening of the morally dubious group? Certainly he's not at fault for Wendell Duke's insanity (played by the inimitable John C McGinley), or company COO's (Tony Goldwin) evil turn towards Putting the Fate of Everyone In His Own Hands. But Milch's open defiance of these men, though admirable, creates even greater friction for all.

Now, I'm not suggesting that a lack of opposition would've eased tension at Belko; maybe that would've fed the lambs to the slaughterhouse even sooner. But a mass execution did take place, regardless. A defined split between the employees did happen, and grew in intensity.

The only person who remained outside of it all was Melanie. And not even necessarily as a conscious choice. Again, it was instinct. And that's fascinating.

From a storytelling/writing standpoint, her survival made as much sense as Milch's. Think of the show Mad Men. Sure, it's ultimately Don Draper's story, but if you'll remember the pilot episode, it is Peggy, not Don, who introduces us to the offices of Sterling Cooper. It's her first day on the job (similar to Dany in The Belko Experiment), so it's through her eyes that we experience the goings-on. We, like Dany, are seeing, for the first time, the drive to the office; the isolated high-rise; the inter-office cliques. Dany is our conduit.

Personally, that made me latch onto her and her journey. Maybe she wasn't the "best" character in terms of Good and Evil, but she was the most human, for better and/or worse. And humanity, with all its loveliness and ugliness, should've won the day.

DIRTY DANCING, and Why Escapism Matters (Beyond the Obvious)