Mayhem follows a morally bankrupt consulting firm that quickly falls into chaos at the entire office building is infected with a virus that removes all inhibitions and heightens rage and other basic impulses. A recently betrayed lawyer (Steven Yeun) and a disgruntled client (Samara Weaving) must team up to not only survive the onslaught of violent employees and their own aggressive tendencies, but to take vengeance upon the upper management that has heartlessly destroyed lives.
Efrit was able to catch Mayhem at Telluride Horror Show while I attended other screenings. As is the case with any horror festival, it's not easy to write full reviews with so much content to take a look at. Also, I wanted to take the opportunity to review the film myself upon having seen it. So here is my take on Mayhem.
It's easy to start with an obvious comparison to The Belko Experiment...so I will. Where Belko disappointed me with its failure to reach its potential, Mayhem exceeded my expectations that were lowered previously by the aforementioned movie. Mayhem is head and shoulders better simply because of one key element...It embraced the chaos that its premise implies.
Mayhem never takes itself seriously and therefore never deals with the flip-flopping awkwardness of Belko. Yet, Mayhem achieves even more with its underlying objective of criticizing the upper class and management of America. It brutally unleashes the inner Id of the viewer as Steven and Samara work their way viciously to the top.
The film brilliantly exercises the black comedy inherent in the plot and uses the virus' effects as a vehicle to drive apparent motivations through hilariously blatant exposition. The writing and acting are perfectly delivered in a relentless juggernaut of violence hedonism that rewards those willing to embrace the two protagonists' goals.
Steven and Samara do a fantastic job, and the dynamics of their relationship as it evolves and devolves amidst the ebb and flow of the chaos-inducing virus is something unique to this film's structure. By comparison to our recent review of Valerian, Mayhem does a much better job of portraying the tumultuous love/hate dynamic between two people that literally want to tear off each other's clothes and tear out each other's hair.
It's a black comedy at its core that never shies away from its brutality, but never breaks from the three-stooges-like response to it. Any direct horror is secondary, as even the psychological undertones and over-the-top malevolence is done in a lighthearted and easy going manner. Frankly, it's never scary and never intended to be. But, with as much blood that is spilled in gruesome ways, it's hard to categorize it, but horror fans will surely enjoy it.
Horror Qualifier: 6/10
Horror Quality: 4/10
Film Quality: 7/10