Review by Thad Timothy; writer, Cult Classic Horror
Review Rating: 2 out of 5
Starring: Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Steven Brand, Dallas Roberts Directed by Joe Lynch
Written by: Matias Caruso
About the Film
Workplace violence has been a hot topic of recent years and what better way to bring it to the screen than through a horror film, particularly one that is set within the cutthroat atmosphere of corporate America. Most of us in the workforce have been stabbed in the back by someone climbing the corporate ladder, perhaps we’ve done it ourselves, and we’ve all wanted to kill our boss at some point. These themes provide great context for a horror film and it appears as though filmmakers have taken notice of that. In 2016 we watched employees of the Belko Corporation viciously murder one another to survive in the Office Space meets Battle Royale hybrid The Belko Experiement. Now comes the latest venture into corporate hell, “Mayhem.” The film is directed by Joe Lynch whose previous directing credits include Wrong Turn 2, Chillerama, and Everly. The cast is led by Walking Dead fan favorite Steven Yeun and also stars Samara Weaving (The Babysitter), Steven Brand (The Scorpion King), and Dallas Roberts (The Walking Dead). The film was a success on the festival circuit winning the “Audience Award” at the Chattanooga Film Festival (2017) and the “Festival Prize” for best actor, Steven Yeun, at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2017). The film received positive reviews from critics, scoring an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, and mixed reviews from the audience who gave it a score of 6.3/10 on IMDb.
The film opens with its protagonist Derek Cho (Yeun) who tells us, the audience, about the ID-7 virus, also called the Red Eye virus, which has been spreading throughout the world. The virus infects the neural pathways of the brain removing inhibitions and moral consciousness which in return causes the infected to act on nothing but pure primal instinct and impulse. The virus itself is not deadly but the reactions of those infected can be, particularly those with the urge to kill. As the story unfolds we learn that Derek has been rising through the ranks of the Towers and Smythe Consulting Firm where his kind-hearted and compassionate nature has given way to corporate greed and social status thus turning him into a corporate zombie without conscience or moral fiber. But things go south for Derek when he is unjustly accused of botching a deal with the firm’s biggest client. Derek is relieved of duty and as security escorts him to the exit they discover that the building has been placed under quarantine by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC explains that the ID-7 virus has been detected in their ventilation system and that they have disbursed a neutralizing agent that will destroy the virus and restore health to those infected within the next eight hours. Realizing he’s infected and therefore not responsible for his actions, Derek evades security and begins plotting revenge on his boss, John Towers (Brand), and those who played a role in his unjust termination. In anticipation of this reaction, Towers sends his goon to stop Derek from obtaining the keycard that will grant him access to the executive floor. As chaos ensues around him, Derek joins forces with disgruntled client Melanie (Weaving) and the unlikely duo begin to fight their way through a multitude of violent confrontations as they make their way to the top floor to exact their revenge.
My Review (without spoilers)
There was a lot of hype surrounding this film and rightfully so. After learning of its director, cast, and overall premise I too couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of it. I had not seen Steven Yeun since his departure from The Walking Dead (RIP Glenn) and was eager to see him portray a crazed badass-seeking-revenge in a full-length genre film. Also, having recently watched and reviewed 2017’s The Babysitter and re-watching season one of Ash Vs. the Evil Dead, I was even more excited to see Samara Weaving on the screen again. Yeun and Weaving did not let me down but unfortunately the movie fell short of my expectations by lacking the overall insanity suggested by its title. Given the premise of the film I was expecting a mindless gorefest laced with ruthless stylistic violence and campy yet clever humor – the kind of film you don’t take seriously but have a lot of fun watching. With the exception of the mindless part, Mayhem didn’t deliver in those areas and I found myself becoming less interested as the movie played on. What bothered me most about this film was that its dialogue and violence were often cliché and at times so over-the-top that they bordered on absurdity. With the exception of the lead characters, there was really nothing I hadn’t seen before and although I don’t regret watching it, I really have no desire to watch it again – at least not right away. Despite its lead characters and some fun moments, Mayhem peaks about halfway through leaving the second half a bit dull as it builds towards a rather lackluster climax.
Although not what I expected, I wouldn’t necessarily discourage genre fans from watching Mayhem through their favorite streaming service or renting it from Red Box for a couple of bucks. If nothing else, it’s fun watching Weaving and Yeun in lunatic mode. If you like the “violence in the workplace” concept I would recommend 2016’s The Belko Experiment over Mayhem.
Additional Trivia (minor spoilers)
- Steven Yeun and Dallas Roberts both starred in AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead.
- In the film, two employees are shown having sex in the background of Derek’s video. The actor and actress portraying the employees were in a relationship and were actually having sex on set.
- Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving both starred in Netflix original movies, Yeun in Okja and Weaving in The Babysitter.
- Samara Weaving starred in three episodes of Starz’s Ash Vs. the Evil Dead during season one.