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Who Got Murdered the Worst in ‘The Belko Experiment’?

Apparently there are 1,001 ways to die in an office building

(Orion Pictures)
(Orion Pictures)

By Andrew Gruttadaro and Claire McNear

This is a post about death scenes in the film The Belko Experiment, and therefore is riddled with spoilers.

In The Belko Experiment, 99 percent of the characters die. It begins when an unknown voice tells the employees of Belko Industries, an American company based in Bogotá, Colombia, that if they don’t kill three of their coworkers, six people will die. But that’s only the beginning. The voice’s demands get larger, and as John Gallagher Jr.’s character notes — while all the other characters tell him to cool down even though a guy’s head just exploded — no one in the building is going to be allowed to live. The bodies start dropping in quick succession after that, partly because coworkers start murdering each other in extremely gross, inventive ways and partly because the voice keeps making people’s heads explode.

The Belko Experiment (which was penned by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn) positions itself as a horror movie that philosophizes on human nature, but really it’s just a movie that takes twisted enjoyment in cubicle-based murder. While things do get a little too grim at times — the slow-motion scene in which photos of a man’s children splay out of his wallet is wildly unnecessary — it’s clear that there’s no point in clutching your pearls with this one. Gunn and director Greg McLean didn’t take things seriously, so why should we? To that end, two Ringer staffers put together a ranking of which characters got murdered the worst in The Belko Experiment.

Honorable Mention: Dany Wilkins (Melonie Diaz)

Claire McNear: Real talk: There are two obvious strategies for survival here. The first — landed on by poor Melonie Diaz, who arrives at Belko for her first day of a new job just in time for the murder plot to be explained over the loudspeakers — is to hide. It’s a big building! Find a nice place to sit in the bowels of the basement and chill, as Diaz does for much of the movie. But then she makes the Certified Dipshit Move™ of leaving the basement, trading it for the elevator shaft — which seems like a second great call until, well, it isn’t.

So Diaz decides to get in the goddamn elevator and go to another floor. The doors open, and bam: The COO, Tony Goldwyn, shoots her in the forehead. She could have been saved if she had gone with the other obvious survival strategy, which no one, not one single Belko soul, attempted, because they are dumb: Play dead. Seriously, rub some blood on yourself and settle in for a nice nap while your psychotic coworkers Battle Royale each other. This is not exactly a time for checking pulses, and the building’s many cameras wouldn’t know the difference. I am available to help write any sequels; you can call my agent, who is a cat.

10. All the People Whose Heads Exploded

McNear: About halfway through the movie, there’s somewhere in the neighborhood of three uninterrupted minutes of people’s heads exploding. Heads pop off of nearly all the remaining non-principals, plus a fair share of people you’ve developed some attachment to. It’s capped by Josh Brener, of Silicon Valley and The Big Bang Theory fame, sitting up and delightedly asking if it’s over, at which point his skull explodes. It was at this moment that a couple in the theater where I watched the movie got up and walked out.

9. Wendell Dukes (John C. McGinley)

Andrew Gruttadaro: You know how I know Wendell, the guy former Scrubs star John C. McGinley plays in The Belko Experiment, is a pervert? Well, first, because his name is Wendell. But more importantly, because at one point Adria Arjona’s character Leandra calls him a pervert and he snaps, “DON’T EVER CALL ME A PERVERT!” Uh, methinks the pervert doth protest too much. As a clear villain in the movie, Wendell was destined to die horribly, and he does. First, Leandra puts a bullet in his leg — very painful, I bet — then slams a cafeteria table onto that same leg. Then, while he’s like, “Oh, I can’t really move this table off of me because I was just recently shot,” Leandra picks up an ax and drives it right through the center of his face. McLean is kind enough to give the audience a quick glance of the ax connecting with Wendell’s dome, and you know what? I now taking sleeping pills because of the image of John C. McGinley’s face concaving while blood geysers from a newly created crevasse.

8. Evan (James Earl)

Gruttadaro: Evan, the security guard, is the greatest character in The Belko Experiment. He isn’t blindly moral like Gallagher, but he also isn’t way too ready to start sacrificing coworkers like McGinley or Goldwyn. He’s just a measured dude understandably sad that all of his work friends no longer have heads. So the most tragic part of the movie is when Evan takes a kitchen knife to the gut and bleeds out in a stairwell. It’s definitely not the worst way anyone dies in this movie — though that knife does go to hilt, and I’m sure it severed a couple of major organs — but Evan was a real lovable guy. I felt like that knife was being driven into my stomach.

7. Lonny (David Dastmalchian)

Gruttadaro: When the experiment begins at Belko, Lonny, one of two maintenance workers in the building, smartly notes, “They’re trying to make us kill each other! They’re trying to make us go crazy!” So it’s pretty shitty that he’s the first one to lose his mind and kill someone. After braining a man with a wrench (my fellow Belko analyst, Claire, will cover this death further down the list), Lonny stumbles upon the new girl, Dany, and since he just killed a man and has very much lost his mind, they begin to tussle. It ends when Dany pushes Lonny against a wall … that is inexplicably adorned by three extremely sharp rods. The middle one goes into the back of his neck (ugh, don’t you hate when that happens!?); blood fills his mouth. It’s super gross.

6. Angry Man (Joe Fria)

Gruttadaro: Angry Man doesn’t have a real name or lines, but he is shown multiple times, invariably being angry that he’s going to die at work. His seemingly last appearance comes about two-thirds of the way through the movie, when we see him take shelter in the cafeteria freezer. Smart move by Angry Man. HOWEVER, we see Angry Man one more time: being dragged out of said freezer while being repeatedly chopped at with a cleaver. Think about how terrible that is! This guy, who, it should be said, is Angry, like, all the time, was freezing his ass off in the name of survival and he died anyway. By being chopped up. With a cleaver. I’d be Angry too.

5. Bud (Michael Rooker)

McNear: During the first 10 minutes or so of The Belko Experiment, you know the fight to the death is coming. Given that there are 80 people in the building — a fact you will be reminded of repeatedly — the filmmakers use that time to try to (a) introduce you to as many people as possible before the fighting begins, and (b) give as many of those people a Defining Characteristic. There’s the Too-Nice Middle-Aged Woman, the Australian Dude, the Sleazy Weirdo, the Large German Lady, the Stoner, etc. As things begin to go south, you start contemplating who’s going first. The odds of survival look pretty good for Michael Rooker, who plays the building’s head of maintenance: He knows his way around the building, has access to tools (a.k.a. MURDER WEAPONS), is pals with the main character (Gallagher), has the sort of voice that suggests that he will engineer some elaborate murders later on, and, of course, is one of the bigger names in the movie. But NOT SO. Our man is the very casualty of employee-on-employee violence, falling victim to a wrench to the head just as soon as the characters realize it’s a free-for-all. It leaves a wrench-shaped dent in his forehead, a sign that the movie will be as much about murder weapons as the murders themselves.

4. Sexy Assistant (Cindy Better)

Gruttadaro: So yeah, in case Angry Man wasn’t enough of an indication that Belko wasn’t too interested in coloring in its secondary characters: Sexy Assistant was an assistant who was … sexy. That was her one trait — at the beginning of the movie, everyone she walks by puts their fist in their mouth like they’re Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. This whole thing gets even more problematic midway through the movie, when Sexy Assistant comes toe-to-toe with Goldwyn’s COO, who has taken it upon himself to murder a lot of people. Sexy Assistant, because of course, begins unbuttoning her blouse, offering sex to the COO in exchange for her life. It’s pretty dark. The two embrace; the COO places his hand on Sexy Assistant’s face — AND THEN HE SNAPS HER NECK! LIKE, ALL THE WAY AROUND! THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY DEGREES! LIKE THE EXORCIST! You may be asking yourself how a corporate exec would know how to accomplish such a brutally gruesome feat, but if you saw the movie twice like I did (because clearly I hate myself), you would have heard the HR guy very quickly and very quietly note that the COO was former Special Forces. OK then!

3. COO Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn)

(Orion Pictures)
(Orion Pictures)

Gruttadaro: For all of his crimes, and because he’s the final boss of The Belko Experiment, the president from Scandal had to die a terrible death. Barry is bested in a scrum with Gallagher, mostly because the latter is able to get his hands on a tape dispenser. I never really considered how heavy those things are — like, why would I care to think about how a tape dispenser also functions as a paperweight? — but the thought definitely occurred to me when one of them was being repeatedly driven into Barry’s face. Those things could definitely fracture a skull! I said to myself as Gallagher rained tape down on Barry over and over again. And because the COO was the main bad guy, Belko reveled in his death, showing his caved-in face several times, letting the audience hear the squish of his brains more than any other character’s. Victory, I guess?

2. Elderly Custodian (Alietta Montero)

McNear: If you’re going to die in a movie like this — and let’s be real, you’re going to die — you probably have some requests. Like: “Can I be a main character?” No, sorry, not gonna work out. “OK: Then can I put up a good fight before I go down?” Nope, not going to happen. “Fine, then at least give me a punchy line in there somewhere — maybe not in the moments before my demise, but … sometime, so that I can bring my family to see the thing and point to some small bit of pre-offing character development.” Nope. The custodian got none of these things. In a film that is basically just two hours of finding ways to kill people with office supplies, the powers that be occasionally throw in something a little more outside the box. In this case, that something is … a Molotov cocktail that engulfs the maid in fire. RIP, maid whose name I think was Liesl, but to be quite honest I have no idea. May you dance on the grave of the Bechdel test in the afterlife.

1. Roberto (David Del Rio)

McNear: The Sixth Rule of Cinematic Battles to the Death in Office Buildings is that deaths induced by elevators are the best (read: also worst) deaths. How many specific deaths do you remember from 2002’s Resident Evil? The laser scene, sure. (Sadly, no lasers here.) For me, no. 2 on that list is the woman who has her head removed by a homicidal elevator as she tries to climb out of it. Belko’s elevator death is a little less inventive but certainly dramatic: Del Rio hangs out on top of an elevator car and listens to the distant sound of his coworkers’ braincases opening. A terrific plan — up until Belko’s maniacal COO gets into the elevator and decides to head to his office, which is, of course, on the top floor. So Roberto goes up, and up, and becomes aware of what is happening, and keeps going up, and up, and up, and then is be-ceiling’d. You can hear his bones, all of them, break. Roberto was the one who joked at the beginning of the movie that everyone was going to die — a funny joke because it was obviously true. Now if you’ll excuse us, Andrew and I are going to go cry in a dark room. One with multiple exits.