Hey man, is my eye bloodshot? Because I feel completely enraged.
Let’s bitch it out…
Have you ever had a job that you just couldn’t stand? Or a complete asshole of a boss that you wanted to kill? Then Mayhem is a film for you. Set in the corporate world – specifically a law firm with shallow morals – the film satirizes not only the Orwellian double-speak and codified behaviours that make our day to day such a slog, but also the subconscious desire that most of us have to burn the establishment to the ground. Mayhem documents what would happen to the former if we were given the opportunity to act on the latter and the results are cartoonishly gory, profane and extremely enjoyable.
Derek (Steven Yuen) is a relatively high ranking lawyer at Towers & Smythe Consulting, a law firm about to suffer an ID7 outbreak, a virus that makes the infected lose control of their inhibitions. The film’s opening scene outlines the parameters of the virus, as well as the landmark case that TSC won for a man accused of killing a coworker, which sets the precedent that the infected have immunity for their actions. This is important given the day that Derek has: he’s accused by a bitchy supervisor nicknamed the Siren (Caroline Chikezie) of dropping the ball on an important case and, in quick fashion, sacked. Unfortunately for CEO John Towers (Steven Brand) and the board, the building is put under quarantine for 8 hours, giving Derek a fixed window to climb the corporate ladder one more time and exact his bloody revenge.
Along for the ride is Melanie (Samara Weaving), a woman whose house is being foreclosed thanks to TSC. Initially at odds when Derek tows the company line, the unlikely pair band together to form a partnership that works exceedingly well in no small part due to the chemistry between Weaving (gleefully chipper) and Yuen. I would be remiss to say that there isn’t something exciting about seeing a POC and a woman storm the echelons of a older, white and (mostly) male dominated company, dispatching lieutenants and destroying any and all obstacles that stand in their way.
The script, written by Matias Caruso and polished by director Joe Lynch, is very clever. Our introduction to Derek is a masterful elevator ride montage that charts his rise at the company via floors and costume, a visual motif that he is stripped of throughout the rest of the film. By the time he finally faces off against Towers, Derek is clad in the costume of an every man: a plain white t-shirt (covered in blood, naturally).
The film is also divided into digestible sequences. The eight hour window during which their criminal actions are void is further broken down into three distinct goals, each dictated by elevator access. First Derek and Melanie must make their way to the Reaper (Dallas Roberts), the firm’s layoff man, in order to get a key card to reach the Siren on the eighth floor. After battling through her minions, they will use her key card to access the PH where Towers and the board await their punishment.
Naturally it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s half the fun of Mayhem. The film delights in discovering new and innovative ways to use office/industrial products to cause damage (my favourite is Melanie’s nail gun) and watching “suits” murder, cry and fuck each other is admittedly cathartic. The destruction is fairly significant, which would be difficult to enjoy if not for the film’s simple explanation that it is the virus (visually represented in each person’s single red eye), and not the rational individuals, causing all the damage.
The Bottom Line: Mayhem is another strong horror comedy from this year’s Fantasia festival. The film isn’t subtle or shy about its intentions, but its dedication to telling off corporate America is a significant part of the film’s charm. Using Yuen and Weaving to headline the carnage also makes it palatable, thanks to their charm and chemistry. Mayhem is a cartoonish, exceedingly violent ride, and one well worth taking.