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MAYHEM Reveals the Gorier Side of Office Politics (SXSW Review)

MAYHEM Reveals the Gorier Side of Office Politics (SXSW Review)

The worst part about working in an office has to be the people. Not all of them, of course. Thankfully there are usually some pretty cool people at the office — but then there are the weirdos, the jerks, and the troublemakers. In daydreams you could see yourself dropping a brick on the foot of Phyllis from accounting; on good afternoons you’d fantasize about shoving office manager Pete out of a nearby window. You choose your friends, but you rarely get to choose your co-workers, and when it comes right down to it, you could probably beat the heck out of a few co-workers if you had to.

That’s sort of what the certifiably insane action/horror/comedy mash-up called Mayhem is all about: a bunch of (mostly awful) office drones who, thanks to a horrific virus and an amusing legal loophole, find themselves morally (and somehow legally) compelled to beat the living snot out of every co-worker within punching distance. Picture a slightly more rational version of the 28 Days Later plague victims and that’s what the unafflicted are dealing with here. And since there’s already been a court case involving an incident of virally-induced assault–the attacker was found not guilty–that means all bets are off.  The building is quarantined, half the office staff is rabid, and the other half is just looking for an excuse to kick someone’s butt.

So yeah, Mayhem is a pretty appropriate title for this sort of twisted genre concoction. The screenplay (by Matias Caruso) is quite a bit cleverer than what one might expect from an over-the-top, violence-laden action thriller, and it’s a welcome example of how to incorporate various types of humor into what is essentially a collection of exceedingly brutal altercations. After a slightly conventional set-up in which we get to know the location, the characters, and the premise, Mayhem switches from a droll comedy about office politics to a fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek, and appreciably gruesome piece of B-movie mania that will certainly strike a chord with anyone who’s ever spent time as an unappreciated office worker.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that Mayhem boasts a pair of leads that not only get the tone of the piece, but jump into its lunacy quite enthusiastically. Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) and Samara Weaving (Ash vs. Evil Dead) make for an unlikely pair of heroes, but they do a fantastic job of keeping the movie cooking while director Joe Lynch (Everly) concocts the next nutty action sequence. Mayhem may be a simple, straightforward genre mash-up in many respects, but it also offers more than a few well-earned chuckles and it rockets forward with such reckless enthusiasm that it’s hard to not get caught up in the ultra-violent insanity. If you take it too seriously, for even a few minutes, you’ll ruin the whole experience.

Mayhem also looks like it will one day work as a great double feature with the upcoming (and similarly-plotted) The Belko Experiment. Clearly there’s just something about working in an office that inspires people to write comedically violent screenplays about the experience.

Rating: 3.5 quarantine rage burritos out of 5

3.5 burritos

Disclosure: I do know Mayhem director Joe Lynch personally. He has given me express permission to dislike his movies. The problem is that he just keeps making fun movies. I even dug Knights of Badassdom, and HE doesn’t even like that one!

Team Nerdist conducts their own version of The Belko Experiment

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