Directed by Joe Lynch.
Starring Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Caroline Chikezie, Kerry Fox, Mark Frost, Dallas Roberts, Claire Dellamar, André Eriksen, Nikola Kent, Lucy Chappell, Annamaria Serda, and Steven Brand.
A virus spreads through an office complex causing white collar workers to act out their worst impulses.
Allow me to describe the opening moments of Mayhem, which will immediately determine whether it is for you or not. Steven Yeun’s (Glenn from The Walking Dead) Derek narrates a short sequence detailing a virus known as the ID-7 Red Eye plague, which essentially sends everyone’s mind haywire forcing them to indulge on any impulse they may have, with strongly heightened craving. Thirsts for violence, emotional outbursts, sex drives… they’re all beyond control, as an employee gruesomely murders a co-worker while another group goes at each sexually on an office table like jackrabbits. This is all in black and white, not only as a stylistic decision but to highlight the distinct red eye that signals a person is currently affected (it’s a rather pleasing visual aesthetic as most characters in the movie have blue eyes, making for a cool contrast inside or outside of the monochrome beginning). If that sort of chaos for 90 minutes sounds right up your bloodthirsty desire, then you’re in for a wild, campy fun ride.
Mayhem plays out like a video game; Derek is unjustly fired from his soul-leeching position at a huge law firm due to mishandling of sensitive material by a co-worker, but as he is promptly exiting the building the effects of the virus conveniently kick in causing it to be quarantined while a vaccine is pumped into the ventilation system over eight hours. Knowing that no one can be held responsible for their actions, legality be damned, Derek uses that festering rage to kill his way up the executive ladder, gathering key cards from each fallen victim to obtain access to higher floors before inevitably reaching his coked-out madman boss (Steven Brand).
He’s also given the assistance of Melanie (Samara Weaving who is continuing to make a name for herself after breaking out in the final episodes of the first season of Ash vs Evil Dead and the recently released Netflix cult-based horror gore treat The Babysitter), one of the many citizens rampantly being screwed over by the company. But really, all that needs to be known is that she knows how to use a nailgun and comes across as ferociously badass. Adding on to that, so does Steven Yeun, although occasionally his high-pitched screaming is too over the top. Of course, this is rounded out by his protagonist going through a relatable story arc, even though it is cliché storytelling.
Just as over-the-top is every villain in Mayhem, ranging from a cruel woman constantly verbally abusing her assistant, a shrewd old woman, and other nasty pieces of work. They also have ridiculous names fitting of video game bosses, such as The Reaper or The Boss. Director Joe Lynch keeps the pandemonium up for the duration of the film after an extended first act full of business jargon and small scenes helping get audiences invested in the characters. Truthfully, 10 or so minutes probably could have been cut; it’s unnecessary. What really makes the heroic duo likable is their intestinal fortitude during a number of brutal fight sequences that basically see any office weapon imaginable being smashed into someone’s face, the heavy-handed social commentary regarding the job hierarchy of corporations led by the filthy rich, and the chemistry between the leads. In particular, Weaving has an infectious adrenaline as she literally fights corporate greed to maintain her home.
There is also a great deal of fun to be had observing all the surrounding chaos, which ranges from everything including fights breaking out, things being set on fire, co-workers having sex, and whatever else chaotic nonsense I missed the first time around. Admittedly, the sound effects complete with windows breaking nonstop and people screaming blow out of proportion what’s really transpiring, as one time there was noise everywhere, but in the background I only saw someone rolling up paper from a trashcan and throwing it at an associate. Essentially, it’s a hit and miss affair, but the fantastic makeup effects make up for it, as by the end of the film these characters are dripping blood following encounter after encounter.
Some of the humor is also a bit too crass, as a friend of Derek is pissed on to further enrage him. At the same time, some of the one-liners and grisly kills are enough to maintain momentum allowing these flaws to be temporarily overlooked. Mayhem never strays far from social commentary or corporate comeuppance, making its blood-soaked carnage easy to cheer on. It’s campy B-level horror, but most importantly, the kind that isn’t cringe-inducing and has likable actors putting in solid work.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com