Derek Cho is having a bad day. After another employee framed him for a mistake, his bosses fired him. Before they could get him out of the building the entire office becomes infected with the “Red Eye” virus. This virus strips away all impulse control leading to violent outbursts and other heinous acts. Derek knows that legally no one can be held liable for their actions while infected, even if they commit murder. The CDC places the building under quarantine, giving Derek eight hours to reach his boss on the top floor and kill him. Little does he know that he will face several floors of obstacles along the way.
Director Joe Lynch (Everly, Chillerama) is known for movies filled with carnage and insanity. Mayhem is no different. Lynch wastes no time getting into the action, giving just enough time to establish the characters and their relationships before the virus takes over the building. Once the action starts, the plot flows like a video game. Derek teams up with a woman who also wants to get to the bosses. Each time they get to a higher floor they face a more deadly foe, many of them with nicknames like “The Siren” and “The Boss.” The floors are like levels of a video game where each level presents a villain who is more difficult to defeat than the last, until they reach the big boss. This is actually fairly similar to Lynch’s film, Everly, except in that film the video game villains came to the hero.
Along with the similarity to another of Lynch’s films, horror fans may find this film to be somewhat similar to the events of The Belko Experiment. While the reason for the violence is different, both films center around a closed-off building filled with employees trying to kill each other. This may mean that Mayhem doesn’t have the most original plot, but it doesn’t take away from how much fun the film is. Every person in the building is infected by the virus, which means you never know what a person is going to do without their impulse control. It leads to some unexpected and highly entertaining events. There is also a lot of humor in this plot, which nicely offsets the hyper-violence throughout the film. The biggest issue with the plot is that the ending is telegraphed right from the beginning. Before the building is put under quarantine, we learn about a case Derek worked on. An infected man was found not liable for murdering someone because of the effects of the virus. It isn’t difficult to figure out where the film goes from there, but at least the journey is delightfully fun to watch.
The two heroes of this film are incredibly entertaining to watch and have great on-screen chemistry. Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead, Okja) plays the leading man, Derek. Yeun plays Derek as a man almost every working person can relate to. He works hard, does what he can to please the bosses, and tries to avoid confrontation in the workplace. When the virus makes Derek free to do and say everything he has always wanted, Yeun plays it so he is always walking the line between rationality and insanity. Samara Weaving (The Babysitter, Three Bilboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) plays Derek’s new sidekick, Melanie. Melanie wanted an extension on her loan and was turned down, so she wants to get to the bosses as badly as Derek. Weaving has recently been popping up in more and more prominent roles, many of them in the horror genre. The way she plays Melanie shows that the character was probably always a bit unstable, so in the quarantine she seems right at home. Together they make quite the sexy and dysfunctional Mario and Luigi team.
Mayhem has the classic Lynch insanity that fans love. The plot might not be the most original, and it will likely remind you of other recent films, but it has some aspects that make it stand out from the crowd. The video game-like format involving more difficult enemies as our heroes go up each floor of the building adds a certain level of geeky fun. Combine that with the unexpected dynamic duo of Yeun and Weaving, and the result is a film that is thrilling, violent, and darkly humorous. You will come out of the film wanting to see future work from everyone including Lynch, Yeun, and Weaving.
OVERALL RATING: 7/10