Mayhem Review: A virus that causes people to lose their inhibitions sweeps through an office building in this chaotically dark thriller.
Derek Cho (Steven Yeun) is a corporate go-getter currently working at Towers and Smythe Consulting. Over the years he has painstakingly clawed his way up to his current position, but despite all his hard work, he finds himself the fall guy for a project he wasn’t even involved with. At the same time that this is unfolding, the office that he works in becomes infected with ID7, a disease that allows the person’s ID to take over, causing a loss of inhibitions and an affinity for violence. As part of a safety precaution, Derek and his colleagues are all quarantined in the building for eight hours, just long enough for Derek to try and rectify his unjust and unfair dismissal. Armed with a bounty of weapons and an unlikely ally, Melanie (Samara Weaving), a young woman conned out of her house, he sets out on the near impossible task of reaching upper management, leaving a wave of bodies and destruction in his wake.
Mayhem, directed by Joe Lynch (Everly, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End), is a balls to the wall dark, action-thriller that has a wicked sense of humour. Comparisons will no doubt be drawn between this and The Belko Experiment, but they really are completely different beasts. Granted, both are set in an office building and feature colleagues turning against each other, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Belko was a social experiment in which people just kinda went insane, driven by the instinct to survive, with Mayhem it’s a virus messing with the chemicals that makes people unhinged. Already bubbling animosities and grudges rise to the surface and, with the part of the brain that controls social norms out of action, anything can, and does happen. It’s liberating to see a battered-down employee finally have the courage to stand up for themselves. Audience members working in similar set-ups will no doubt be living vicariously through Derek.
Fans of The Walking Dead will know that Steven Yeun played one of the greatest characters on the show, Glenn. Sadly he’s no longer a part of the infamous TV series, but fans in need of their Yeun fix need look no further than Mayhem. Yeun leads the film as Derek and, whilst the character is miles apart from beloved Glenn, he’s still someone you can relate to. You want Derek to succeed, and though he’s not as warm and fuzzy as Glenn Rhee, he’s a corporate every-man championing down-trodden workers everywhere. Yeun effortlessly gets the audience onside as we journey with Derek from fiery, but quite timid lawyer, to empowered erratic justice seeker.
There’s an easy chemistry between Yeun’s Derek and Samara Weaving’s Melanie. At the start they are polar opposites, but as the walls fall down, the pair connect over the atrocities that have befallen them. Melanie is the perfect foil for Derek’s nervous energy, she’s a bundle of pure anger, spurred on by her desire to keep a roof over her head. She also injects some heart in Derek and the pair share some touching moments amidst the blood-shed. Melanie is an uber-cool office Sarah Connor type (that’s T2 Sarah Connor). It’s also nice to finally see a ‘normal-looking’ blonde female listening to metal music – you don’t have to be a stereotypical goth to enjoy the stuff, and Lynch proves it.
The narrative structure works like an old-school beat-em-up video game. It’s sort of like a Streets of Rage type story wherein Derek and Melanie slowly work their way up to the battle with the big boss by taking down lesser bosses along the way. The pair must navigate their way up several office floors, each guarded by a particularly nasty piece of work. It’s a simple structure that works well within the parameters of the story.
Mayhem is a mass of cathartic energy that, once you embrace the chaos, is a whole lot of fun to behold. There’s plenty of gore and inventive weapons on display, a cool soundtrack and plenty of shots of relatively normal folks, Derek and Melanie, just looking simply bad-ass. Put simply, Mayhem is every disgruntled employee’s dream come true, and every boss’ worst nightmare.
Mayhem review by Kat Hughes, August 2017.
Mayhem is currently playing as part of the Horror Channel Frighfest 2017 programme.