By: Meg Schmit
We’ve seen this type of film before – think Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. It’s permeated our action, horror, and sci-fi genres: the ultimate psychological experiment. For some reason, we are grossly mesmerized by the high-stakes game of kill-or-be-killed. There’s no shortage of internal struggle, ethical stand-offs, and surprise deaths.
I was ready for another mediocre social experiment thriller when I stepped into the theaters to see The Belko Experiment. It certainly held true to its conventions, but it also made room for a few shocking moments. **SPOILER** Like when Dani, who had shown the most grit and smarts of the employees, met a split-second bloody end in the elevator at the hands of her new boss.
I’ll admit, while I enjoyed Belko, it wasn’t because it was anything new or special. It was because I paid attention to my own reactions than ever before while watching similar films. I noted when I started making my own internal decisions about what I would do, and when I switched over to rooting for the kill rather than a less violent alternative. What was the most shocking moment for me was just how whole-heartedly relieved and almost giddy I was when **SPOILER** Wendall, the workplace pervert, took a gruesome hacking to the face with an ax.
Why do we love these kinds of movies so much? Is it because they make our hearts pound with adrenaline? Because they make us question our own morals? Or perhaps because they force us to face our own dark part of humanity?
This analysis of human morbid fascination ties into the answer. In order to remain wholesome, we need to feed the shadowy parts of our psyche that are so much more negatively inclined towards anger, violence, hatred. Hence the guilty elation at the death of Wendall and the secret switchover to rooting for the kill.
It is nothing new to recognize the dark side of human nature and how it plays out in film – the fascinating part is that we are satisfied with watching the same type of social experiment play out over and over. It is then not the plot or the characters that fascinate us, but the purity of human violence.