How has Joe Lynch only directed four feature-length films?! Considering his notoriety in the genre film community, you’d think he was on his tenth by now. Granted, considering he was the star of the horror sitcom Holliston and hosts The Movie Crypt podcast, in addition to a handful of shorts, he doesn’t need to have a massive resume for his passion for genre cinema to be well-known. Having previously directed the sequel Wrong Turn 2, forcing him to use story elements he didn’t create, and with Knights of Badassdom being taken away from him, I’ve been waiting for the film that would let the filmmaker fire on all cylinders. Having seen Mayhem, I have now seen Lynch at his finest, and it’s a goddamn blast.
A virus has entered the world that unleashes an individual’s id and cranks it up to 11, resulting in individuals to fight or fornicate anyone their mind wants them to. Derek (Steven Yeun) is a lawyer working for a firm that recently cleared someone of murder charges from crimes they committed under influence of the virus, which he thought would lead to a promotion. Rather, Derek is the target of corporate corruption and is given his walking papers. Before he can vacate the premises, however, the building is quarantined as the building’s air has tested positive for the virus. The building erupts in violence as Derek sets his sights on the executive board on the top floor to defend himself, happily maiming anyone who stands in his way.
Apparently babes and hunks make good movie stars!
Boy oh boy, where do I begin? Well, let’s start with the film as a whole. For a movie to essentially be a “corporate revenge thriller,” the concept is too silly to be taken seriously, so Lynch leans on the absurdity to milk it for what it’s worth. The rules of the virus are laid out expertly in the opening scene to open the door for suspension of all of your disbelief without entering a fantasy world. The characters deliver some incredibly cheesy dialogue and dorky one-liners, but in the context of those words being an extension of the character’s deepest thoughts, it works perfectly. The blend of humor and violence wouldn’t have been at all possible without Yeun anchoring the whole piece together, who has proven he is a certifiable badass.
Of all the characters in The Walking Dead, Glenn has always been a favorite. Yeun exudes sincerity, fully committing to the premise of a zombie apocalypse and all the results from the situation. The actor not only mentally buys into the premise, but through all the rigorous stunts he’s done on his AMC show, was able to showcase his commitment to kicking ass with a variety of kicks, punches, and the occasional nailgun. Samara Weaving, who plays a woman who merely walked into the building for a mortgage extension, joined Yeun on the journey and proved to be just as charming, clever, and badass as Yeun. If the two of them aren’t inundated with more genre opportunities in the future, the world of genre cinema will suffer.
At its heart, Mayhem is about doing what’s right, no matter what the cost. Films like Bloodsucking Bastards, The Belko Experiment, and Us and Them have taken bloodier approaches to the exploration of corporate greed, but what makes Mayhem work is that there are any number of reasons for one man to fight his way through a building, so the messages of corporate greed just add flavor to an otherwise simple premise. Lynch is clearly a child of ’80s cinema where, to create a convincing bad guy, all you need was someone holding a briefcase. Mayhem honors those villains whose gun is a cell phone with the evil board members being the Boss Battle, as well as the office setting to allow for many hilarious office-themed gags. We’ve all wanted to tell off our boss or call out the douchebag coworker, so Mayhem lets us fulfill those fantasies. As a filmmaker, Lynch has fully embraced his enthusiasm and passion for genre cinema while also flexing his comedic chops, all thanks to the tour-de-force performance of his new muse, Steven Yeun.
Wolfman Moon Scale