The idea of people being trapped in an at least semi-enclosed space and having to kill one another against their will has become an increasingly popular, general premise in recent years. Battle Royale, The Hunger Games and more recently The Belko Experiment all employ some version of this premise. Director Joe Lynch has decided to take a stab at this concept with his latest outing Mayhem, but this movie shouldn't be judged too harshly on the surface for sharing some similarities. It is quite different and holy unhinged crap is it bloody.
Premiering at SXSW, Mayhem centers on a man named Derek (Steven Yeun) who has slowly climbed the corporate ladder and finds himself unsatisfied and feeling a bit hollow. Things get heated after he is framed for corporate espionage, which he tries to fight within the corporate hierarchy of his firm. However, on the same day, a mysterious virus is unleashed on his company and he is forced to savagely fight for not only his job but his life in a building full of infected and disgruntled individuals.
Most of the time in movies like this, it is people having to kill one another against their will in a "kill or be killed" kind of scenario. While there is definitely some of that in Mayhem, the idea that this virus is responsible for taking away people's inhibitions and making them go absolutely crazy makes things a bit more interesting. In some ways, these people are acting against their own will. Or at least in ways they wouldn't be acting were the virus not in play. Though, the idea of how much the virus has to do with it is played with a bit. Are some of these people just using this virus as a get out of jail free card? You bet. But that just adds another layer to the whole thing.
Even though (as of this writing) I have not yet seen The Belko Experiment, I get the sense that there are going to be a lot of comparisons made between the two movies. Both movies take place in office buildings with unsuspecting employees murdering one another left and right. That said, I get the sense the tones of these movies are completely different. Whereas The Belko Experiment seems to feature a lot of very reluctant workers in a truly brutal and violent, awful situation, Mayhem, technically speaking, has a lot of more than willing participants thanks to this virus. Yes. Make no mistake, there is a truly astonishing amount of blood spilled in Mayhem but there is a tone that almost makes it, dare I say fun? I know that may seem tasteless to say when it comes to watching so many people die bloody, horrible deaths on screen, but Joe Lynch really crafted an insane B-movie here that has a super elevated, hyper-real tone. It almost makes a lot of this ultraviolence seem okay. Almost.
Despite the tone, this is not a genre flick for the overly faint of heart. This isn't the type of movie for those looking for a little thrill and a jump scare. This is a pedal to the metal, blood-soaked brawl that does not pull any punches. Mayhem is very appropriately titled, let's put it that way. If you don't like a lot of blood or over-the-top violence, you may want to look elsewhere. On the flipside, if you like those kinds of movies, Mayhem may really surprise you. I don't know if it is a great movie. It is really hard to say because it is so blunt and absurd that it just sort of smacks you in the face and makes it a little hard to look at in an objective way. There is definitely something to be said for what is accomplished here.
Most of the cast members wind up being serviceable bodies with name tags, but given the B-movie vibe, the sometimes cheesy dialogue and over-acting that is displayed completely works. Again, some people just don't dig that kind of thing but if you can buy what Mayhem is selling, there is entertainment value here. Lots of it. Steven Yeun, who most of us know as Glenn from The Walking Dead, really puts all of those zombie killing skills to good use here. He is funny, charming, brutal and quite different than what we're used to. We could be looking at a new horror icon in the making here. He is the perfect kind of actor to lead this sort of movie. Also, just because it is worth pointing out, Margot Robbie may have a long-lost sister in Samara Weaving. The similarity is uncanny at times. Oh and she is also very good at killing people on screen.
Mayhem is not the kind of movie that I can recommend flat-out to everyone. This isn't one of those blanketly enjoyable genre affairs that occasionally makes its way into the mainstream. But there are certainly a lot of people out there who will enjoy this not-overly-serious but most definitely violent death festival. Joe Lynch brought the carnage with this one and I would say that it totally works on the levels that it is supposed to work. Mayhem is what it is and for those who enjoy that kind of thing, it will deliver the goods.