by Hope Madden
You know that nice lady at work who gets bronchitis every time she flies, then she coughs and hacks and spews DNA all over the office?
Let’s say you have issues with that kind of office contamination. And with office politics. And with your boss, her boss, and the way you’ve basically given up everything that makes you feel alive and happy for this stupid job you hate where germs are everywhere…
Wouldn’t it be cathartic to explode, right there, in the middle of everything, righteously and with no repercussions?
Mayhem, the new film from director Joe Lynch, is just that emotional release.
Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) plays Derek, mid-level white-collar prick in a law office. Just mid-level, though—there’s some conscience left in him. Still, he got where he is by finding the loophole that got a broad-daylight-surrounded-by-witnesses murderer off the hook.
The murderer had a virus—the Red Eye virus—which disrupts your ability to manage your emotions. You might weep uncontrollably, masturbate during a conference call, or stab your boss in the throat with a pen.
Here’s what’s important: we like Derek, his building is contaminated, his court case set the precedent allowing public murder and mayhem while under the 8-hour-ish influence of the virus.
Let’s just quarantine this building and see what happens.
The film is an exercise in workplace catharsis, and a pretty fun one. It’s far superior to other recent attempts at office-bound carnage The Belko Experiment and Bloodsucking Bastards, partly because Lynch has a crisp sense of pace and knack for comedy.
Matias Caruso’s script doesn’t hurt. Though it never mines deeply enough for the film to resonate beyond the “I hate my job and wouldn’t mind killing my boss” level, it’s clever fun from start to finish.
Yeun makes an excellent everyman and his enjoyable performance is matched by those of many of his evil colleagues. Dallas Roberts (also The Walking Dead) is exceptional as the head of HR, also known as The Reaper.
The film is little more than an id explosion in service of workplace fantasy. It keeps a light heart despite the carnage, doesn’t dig deep and doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny. But it’s fun. Especially if you’ve ever wanted to kill your boss.