Mayhem: One Bloody Good Time
Review by Aaron Haughton
What would you do to your boss or co-workers if you were infected with a virus that legally granted you immunity to any heinous act of violence or debauchery you could commit while under its influence? That's what director Joe Lynch and screenwriter Matias Caruso explore in their latest film, Mayhem; what happens to a dog-eat-dog work environment when it literally becomes cutthroat. The end result feels part comic book, part video game, which equals a whole lot of bloody fun.
Derek Cho (Steven Yeun) is having the worst day. After being unjustly fired from his job, he discovers that the firm's building is under quarantine for a dangerous virus. While technically non-lethal — unless someone inflicted with the virus kills you, that is — the virus brings the id of those infected to the forefront, resulting in the rapid loss of morals, which general culminate into acts of sex and violence. Chaos quickly erupts throughout the office as the victims of the disease begin acting out their wildest impulses. Joining forces with a former client (Samara Weaving) who has a grudge of her own, Derek savagely fights to get to the executives on the top floor so he can settle the score once and for all.
The film opens with a very Clockwork Orange feel in musical selection, theatrics and violence. It wastes absolutely no time, and quickly introduces us to the virus, its capabilities, and the first outbreak, which resulted in the exoneration of a murderer due to the inability to control your actions while under the spell of the infection. It's a lot of exposition to be hit with right away, but it doesn't feel like a gigantic horse pill to swallow. Plus, you know that once the setup is done — and it's over in a matter of minutes — that the real fun can begin.
Lynch's chic and stylistically cinematic eye, and director of photography Steve Gainer's sharp cinematography become apparent immediately, with editor Josh Ethier keeping the rhythm and pace moving at rapid, savagely controlled rate. The film is pulled along by a voiceover, which helps give it that comic book vibe and bears a kinetic spirit, helping to give a freshness to what is an otherwise tired narrative crutch. Also driving the action is the film's score, mostly consisting of pulsing 80s synth and ballistic thrash metal. Everything culminates into a great tone, which is maintained solidly throughout without many slumps.
The action and violence is pumped to the lids with adrenaline, enhanced by the constantly in motion camerawork and quick edits. The premise is not original in the slightest — it's more of a mashup of preexisting ideas — but it's executed in a way that makes it feel novel and hip. My only real complaint is that the kills are weak and unimaginative. There really aren't that many, either.
Mayhem relies on its crisp, rebellious punk rock attitude to carry the film, which shines through Yeun and Weaving's performance. They work well together, and their banter is highly amusing, especially when discussing their top 3 bands. Yeun's depiction of Derek is strong enough to rival his performance as Glenn from The Walking Dead; he spits venom and gives a wonderfully unhinged performance. The rest of the supporting cast performs solidly as well, with their performances only becoming more entertaining as the virus' affects increasingly take hold, making them more prone to unexpected and aggrevated outbursts.
As part of the quarantine, the government released a stabilizer through the office's ventilation system, and the film is a race against the clock for Derek to reach the company's CEO before the virus' effects subside, leaving him once again accountable for his actions. Logistically, from the time the stabilizer was released, you would think that the aggression and craziness would begin very extreme and progressively lose its edge as time wore on, but the film doesn't abide by that reasoning. It also may've been more narratively engaging if the virus also affected the nervous system's ability to deliver feelings of pain, which could've helped ratchet up the violence and depravity of its office space atrocities.
Regardless of its flaws, it is damn fun thrill ride, and is well worth a watch. It's a film that pairs nicely with Office Space with regard to its cynical demeanor, and it's a great way to cathartically release those feelings of office blues.
Rating: 3.5 acts of office place violence outta 5.
What did you think? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!