March 15, 2018

Movie Review: Mayhem (2017)

On one hand, Mayhem is just the kind of movie that I should love. On the other hand, Mayhem is just the kind of movie that I should hate. With that said, I guess it makes some sort of sense that I am somewhere in the middle with regards to how I feel about it. There is about as much to like about it as there is to dislike. In some ways I wish this was a short film, as that is one of the problems, it feels stretched, straining to be a feature length feature film. There is nothing worse than padding, right? Stop saying these meaningless words and get to the point Just get to the action already. Get on with it. Right?

The movie was directed by Joe Lynch, who first garnered notice with his direct to video feature debut, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End. He has since taken part in Chillerama, plus Knights of Badassdom. On the writing side of the coin, we have first time feature writer Matias Caruso. Now, he has some good ideas and as a piece of horror satire it works quite well, but you can tell they are reaching for the finish line. I liked it, but it could have been so much better.

Mayhem has moments where it live up to its name, but it is not the all out mayhem that you hope that it is going to be. It plays like a mash up of The Office and The Purge, with perhaps a touch of Cabin Fever or 28 Days Later. The problem is that it comes too close on the heels of The Belko Experiment, which may not have the virus aspect, but seems to nail the mayhem and satire in a way that they only hope to here. Now it sounds like I don’t like Mayhem, which isn’t true, while it does feel a bit like an also-ran, it still manages to entertain. It just doesn’t reach the full potential.

At the center of our story is former The Walking Dead fan fave actor, Steven Yuen. He is Derek Cho and he spends the opening of the film to explain, in great detail, a virus that has swept the word and releases its victims inhibitions, to the point where it can get you off a murder charge. The next chunk of the film follows Derek as he his wrongfully terminated from a soulless job with a soulless company that made him a lot of money, and also happens to be the law firm that got the precedent set regarding the virus and murder charges. Also, much like the beginning, they go into great detail explaining the dog at dog corporate structure of said company.

I found all this setup to be mildly interesting, but it left me wanting to get to the meat of Mayhem, which was clearly setup to be Yuen fighting his way up the building to deal with the bigwigs that cost him his job while dealing with whatever craziness the virus throws his way. That is pretty much the second half of the film, that sees him teaming with a young woman about to lose her home, whom Derek neglected to help earlier, named Melanie (Samara Weaving from The Babysitter and Ash vs The Evil Dead).

When the movie finally cuts loose and Mayhem shows its true colors. When Derek and Melanie are wielding nailguns and hammers, it is at its best. Letting the chaos reign is when the film shows its heart and creativity. It is a bloody blast. The problem is that it keeps getting a little too talky, slowing down every so often to explain what is going on, ot plot details, or even fighting techniques.

Mayhem is enjoyable and has a pair of good, if unlikely, leads. If only they were able to do more showing and less talking, and maintain its intensity level, it could have been nicely over the top. I many ways it reminds me of how I am working on my first novel (don’t worry, it will be terrible) and how I get bogged down in the logic rather than just letting go. Mayhem is entertaining enough, there just isn’t enough of it.

Mildly Recommended.

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