Sitges Review: Joe Lynch's 'Mayhem' is a Violent Takedown of Greed
by Alex Billington
October 8, 2017
Bring down the whole damn house! Indie filmmaker Joe Lynch's (Everly, Knights of Badassdom) new film is another violent, deranged, totally crazy, totally fun film titled Mayhem. The title, which is a bit vague, doesn't have much to do with the plot - which is actually about a guy who works at a sleazy legal corporation that decides to take on the executives when a virus causes everyone to go crazy. I saw this film at 1AM with a crowd of horror fans at the Sitges Film Festival, which is the perfect time and place to see this kind of film, because they cheered at all the right moments. If you watch this one at home, it just won't hit as hard, but it's still a thoroughly entertaining horror action comedy mashup with a worthwhile message at the end of it.
The concept for Mayhem is fairly simple, enriched with some fun characters. A corporate office building is quarantined when a virus infects everyone and makes them go crazy, beating people up or acting out their worst impulses. One of the employees is Derek Cho, played by Steven Yeun, who has spent years slowly working his way up the corporate ladder. But he's also slowly starting to crack and see this culture for what it is - petty, greedy, morally void, an awful culture that people accept in hopes of a rich and glamorous life. When the virus takes over, he uses the opportunity to fight his way to the executive suite and take them out, literally smashing the idiots around him who suck up to this corporate life. It's a cathartic takedown of the greedy corporate culture that pervades our world today. And it's such a nice joy to see him bring it all down.
Yes, I will admit that Mayhem is a tad cliche, a tad cheesy, a tad cheap, but that doesn't take away from the entertainment of it. Plus, it's the perfect fuck you to corporate culture. So you know what, it deserves some acclaim for being so bold as to stick to its guns (and knives and brass knuckles and other office weapons) and deliver fully on the idea that this life so many are brainwashed into living is actually terrible. Terrible for you, and for everyone, and we need to open our eyes and wake up and stop giving into it. Mayhem beats down this greed with a gloriously bloody hammer, and yes the violence is excessive (and at times hilarious), but Joe Lynch wouldn't have it any other way. This is his style, his artistic expression. Cho teams up with a client named Melanie, played by Samara Weaving, and their dynamic helps push the message a bit more.
Lynch's Mayhem won't impress in its technical aspects, but it is still entertaining and engaging. The way he lets the corporate culture overflow into excess is a good setup for the endless violence that he unleashes. The characters are cliche, but not in an off-putting way, because they actually reflect the cliche (yeah, sorry) corporate schmucks who exist in real life. As much as it would be best to experience this in a theater full of genre-loving movie fans, this movie is probably best experienced with friends who can laugh at anything and enjoy some Hollywood violence. Yeun gives a solid, well-rounded performance as the lead character, and the rest of the cast follows in suit, with over-the-top performances that only make it more amusing. So have fun.
Alex's Sitges 2017 Rating: 7.5 out of 10
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