So much to complain about, so little time. The trouble with this film, I believe, can easily be explained by the inequality issues on the ground level, so let’s start there.
Gender behind the scenes:
Producers: 5 Dudes
Gender on screen:
Of the first ten billed actors (the ones with the most screen time), eight are men and two are women. The film does not pass the Bechdel Test, meaning no two women ever talk to each other about anything other than a man.
The feminist trouble:
The stark lack of women on the production side informs how women are portrayed on screen. With only men to write, direct, and produce, there will likely be no one with the gender inequality awareness to say, “Hey, that’s a sexist moment, we should work on that.” As a result, we’re left with two featured female characters, one of whom spends the entire film in near silence while she hides from the chaos in solitude. Talk about painting women as submissive. Both women spend the entire movie in high heels, only ever taken off to jump from an elevator shaft or to trick a murderous co-worker; as if there would be no other excuse to remove your stilettos in violent mass hysteria. And if these lackluster women aren’t enough for all you sexists out there, HOLD TIGHT! For no plot-driven reason whatsoever, a nameless woman appears and attempts to bargain for her life by exposing her breasts and offering sex to the man with a gun. He snaps her neck. Slut gets punished.
The big picture:
When I left the theatre, I was so consumed by the irresponsibility of the film as a whole that I could barely take the gender inequality seriously. With a little time to process, I think it’s clear that gender inequality informs films like this. The movie is Purge-like in its nihilism, brutally violent, and claims ultimate knowledge that normal people turn monstrous when survival is involved. There is no discernible “message” and certainly not one that we need spelled out for us. Gun violence is terrorizing the United States in airports, schools, and office buildings just like Belko. In 2017 alone (in less than THREE months), there have been 14,059 gun related incidents and 3,586 gun deaths, 141 of whom were children under the age of 11. We don’t need a metaphor for human brutality when we come face to face with it whenever we turn on the news. We know what’s happening, we just don’t care, and films like this are partially to blame. We’ve made violence, specifically with guns, so commonplace in media that we cannot possibly wrap our heads around the real cost of human life. Here’s where I believe feminism comes in: the overwhelming majority of violence is committed by men, suggesting that males are more desensitized to brutality. If there were an equal amount of women on the production team, would there still be such reckless and pointless carnage? Or would a woman have stepped in and asked, “What are we doing here?” Obviously, there’s no way to know for sure, but the answer is certainly not to continue down the path of male-dominated film and violence-dominated cinema.
Skip Belko. It’s not scary and it’s not clever: it’s mass murder. And if you’re sincerely looking to enjoy a big bucket of popcorn while watching that, I think your Friday night would be better spent in therapy.