Plot: Derek (Steven Yeun) has worked hard and been a model employee, but some of his superiors have attached him to a problem with an important account, so he takes the fall and they’re unscathed. He has taken so much abuse and just wanted his rightful place in the business, but now he is fired and on his way out. Or he was, before a virus was picked up in the office and the entire structure was placed under quarantine for the next eight hours. This “red eye virus” infects hosts and lowers their social inhibitions, which can lead to sexual and violent outbursts. The law has even established that those who find themselves infected aren’t responsible for their actions while under the influence of the virus. So now Derek is locked in the office with all the people who screwed him over, with no consequences for whatever actions he takes. Will he take the high road, or carve out a path of violent vengeance?
Entertainment Value: This is fun movie, but it had the misfortune of coming out at the tail end of a few other similar movies. The most widely seen was likely The Belko Experiment, but I think Mayhem has enough fresh elements to make it worth a look, even if you’ve seen several other workplace, arena style horror movies. Steven Yeun is a fun lead, as he is just a driven guy, not an action hero or larger than life figure, so that starts us off on the right foot. His performance mirrors that, as he allows the virus to amplify his tendencies, but still coming off like an underdog in most scenes. At his side is Samara Weaving, who steals the show as female predator Melanie, a beast who has a shark’s smile and no remorse. The two make an odd couple, but it works, as she helps bolster him at times when times get wild. She just commands the screen here and I hope she gets more chances to show off this wild, sadistic side. The movie skews more toward action/thriller than horror, despite the viral element involved. So don’t expect scares, more aggression and violence than suspense or atmosphere. The movie takes a blunt approach, but it mostly works. If you like the idea of an office building filled with infected workers out to punish each other, Mayhem is a fun watch.
A brief sex scene at the movie’s start promises some sleaze, but doesn’t deliver and the movie has no further skin involved. Given how the virus is supposed to make everyone so horny, I’m kind of let down by the lack of gratuitous sleaze involved. But there is a good amount of violence, with a small, but varied arsenal of office oriented weapons pulled into the combat. There’s some solid bloodshed involved, but it never goes over the top or overly graphic. So some splashy moments, but I wish it would have embraced the viral aggression, instead it keeps things reeled in. Even so, the violence is fun to watch and is crafted with style, so there’s that. The dialogue has some fun one liners and workplace angst, but is more about the performances than the lines. Some fun ones still pop in, but not a lot of big, memorable lines or exchanges. In terms of craziness, we have the rampant workplace violence, but the craziest element here is Weaving, so seems quite unhinged. She is off the rails and adds some unpredictable energies to the movie, which helps it rack up a couple points.
Overall Insanity: 3/10