Your job sucks. You break your back in a cut throat, high pressure, low reward environment all for the sake of making the guys upstairs a little bit richer while you struggle to keep the lights on. You’re stuck in a cubicle farm, surrounded by assholes and wondering just how good it might feel to just let loose for a couple of minutes and really wreck the place up. Since going on a spree isn’t an option, Mayhem will have to do. Written by Matias Caruso and directed by Joe Lynch (Knights of Badassdom, Wrong Turn 2) the film offers you a chance to live out all those fantasies conjured by Office Space or The Purge. So, tell me, what would you do if you got a free pass to maim, murder, and destroy everything around you for the next eight hours?
Derek Cho (Steven Yeun) is a middleman with aspirations of being the boss. With his legal acumen and prowess he rose through the ranks to earn that corner office, securing his promotion by finding the legal loophole that allowed a man to get away with murder. A new virus that causes the complete dissolution of impulse control, you know, that little voice that stops you from fucking in public or kicking some guy’s ass for looking at you sideways, has swept the globe. It’s a short lived pathogen but the violence it ultimately causes has been escalating. After being sacked in a coup to cover up a larger corporate mistake, Cho ends up in a basement holding cell with an unsatisfied mortgage holder named Melanie Cross (Samara Weaving) who he sort of screwed over earlier in the day. When the virus takes over the building, locking everyone inside for a mandatory quarantine, the duo decides they’re ready to give the suits upstairs what they deserve.
I can’t say enough about how wonderful Mayhem is. The story itself is fun, gruesome, and overwhelmingly human with characters so relatable you’re probably sitting across from one or two of them right now as you read this review. Couple that with a cast who brings those characters to life and connects them to the audience and you have something beyond phenomenal. Joe Lynch framed up some truly amazing shots that turned an already fun, energetic, and absolutely insane script into an action/horror masterpiece. The opening itself is in black and white with only shades of red and the television news in the background being the only colors. From the bloodshot red eye of the infected to the crimson arterial spray as the first manic murder takes place, it’s intense and exciting in a way that instantly grabs your attention and holds it.
I love Joe Lynch’s style as is. He shoots more of those static, close up shots that give the audience a chance to drink in the design of every scene. There’s none of that bullshit shaky camera, half second cuts. You get to savor every last moment of Mayhem as it burns, bludgeons, and saws its way across the screen. The cinematography and editing are genius and tell a captivating story that offers as much suspense as it does satisfaction. But there’s one other thing that I want to mention, something small to most but that had a major impact on me.
Getting a copy of Mayhem on DVD at McKays -a used book and media store in town- I played through the special features. Joe Lynch talks about being stuck in a cubicle farm himself in between movies. This accomplished actor and filmmaker was doing what so many of us are doing: working in a job he hates to pay the bills while he tries to live his passion. As a writer struggling to sell my stories and still keep food on the table by working a job that, ultimately, is a bit soul crushing and a far departure from where I want to be, it was encouraging to hear him talk about this production coming together to become something so wildly fulfilling.
Mayhem is streaming exclusively on Shudder and is available to rent or purchase through most streaming services like Amazon and Google play. It’s also available on DVD and Bluray and, as a fan of horror-comedy and social commentary, I’m telling you now it’s a must see. Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving are phenomenal and the dialogue and soundtrack are absolutely killer.