Mayhem (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival]

In a law office building with raising tensions and a myriad of issues, Derek Cho is wrongfully fired as a virus takes hold of the workers making them lose all inhibitions and moral barriers.  During the CDC imposed quarantine, Cho and a soon to be homeless homeowner climb up the floors to get justice.

Written by Matias Caruso and directed by Joe Lynch, this film lives up to its name.  The story starts off like a regular office dark comedy and once the virus takes hold and Cho gets fired, all bets are off.  The story builds momentum and insanity with each floor Derek and Melanie reach.  The office story is relatable to most people as almost everyone has worked in an office or environment where they wished they could just go ballistic on their co-workers.  The film takes this and builds on it, giving the viewer an outlet for their pent up work related frustrations and rage.  The characters do what many have dreamt or wanted to do.  These characters are relatable, Derek being an everyman type of character and Melanie being the no nonsense woman who is taking the bull by the horns, they both create a connection with the audience in dealing with the more exaggerated lawyers and higher ups.  The film uses these everyday people to ground its insane action and developments into a somewhat normal reality.

The cast here is strong and works well while keeping a straight face throughout the mayhem and insanity.  Derek Cho is played by Steven Yeun who makes him to be an overworked, stressed out, goal oriented man who is seemingly normal before the virus takes hold.  Going through everything by his side is Samara Weaving as Melanie Cross a young woman who visited the law firm to try and get an extension on her house repo so to be able to get back on her feet.  She is the perfect balance to Yeun’s character and performance, giving a spunky, gleeful at times performance while he is more goal-oriented and has more of a connection with the law firm.  Where his quest to get to the top is more personal, hers is a bit more desperate, giving them separate but similar goals.  The cast of “bad guys” is led by Steven Brand who pushes his evil lawyer persona to the limits, making him a truly despicable person and someone the audience wants to see dead.  His performance teamed up with Caroline Chikezie, Kerry Fox, Dallas Robert, and Andre Eriksen to name a few, creates a workplace wrought for implosion.

Their performances are supported by practical effects and visual effects that work bloody well together.  The practical effects give horror fans plenty blood to enjoy while the visual effects are clearly used to accent these and create the red eye effect on the infected characters. These eyes are so well done, the audience might even think they are contact lenses, which they are not.  The effects mixed into the insane chaos of the story create this whirlwind effect that grabs the viewer and involves them into the story deeper and deeper.

The film’s look and sound are also well thought out, with music by Steve Moore, from the band Zombie, who took the hums and sounds of an office, accentuated them and layered synth sounds with them to create a familiar sounding music that works perfectly with the visuals.  The cinematography by Steve Gainer and editing by Josh Ethier create a look for this film that works perfectly with the story and the mayhem on screen.  Their work help guide the viewer through all the is seen and even what is not noticed as there is a ton going on in the background that does not necessarily register right away.  Their work helps create that feeling of chaos while also letting the viewer see the action and understand what is going on.

Mayhem is one of those films that live up to their title.  Here the mayhem and insanity is push up as much as it can without going overboard too much, creating a relatable story with insane elements that entertains and is funny as hell, kind of like going through the seven circles of hell, or eight floors of corporate hell, to come out victorious and laughing.  Horror-comedy is a tough subgenre that often does not work, but Mayhem hits that ball out of the park and doesn’t give up until the end credits roll.  Considering Lynch’s other work, this one is another successful, crowd-pleasing horror/comedy/action film that is fun and exciting to watch.  It may even make you feel like leaving your corporate drone job in a spectacular way (which neither Cinema Crazed nor director Joe Lynch endorse).

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.