Mayhem (2017) poster

Mayhem (2017)


USA. 2017.


Director – Joe Lynch, Screenplay – Matias Caruso, Producers – Parisa Caviani, Mehrdad Elie, Lawrence Mattis, Matt Smith & Sean Sorenson, Photography – Steve Gainer, Music – Steve Moore, Visual Effects Supervisor – Sam Balcomb, Visual Effects – Mist VFX Studio (Supervisor – Aslam Khader Kayath) & Rainfall (Supervisor – Sam Balcomb), Special Effects Supervisor – Muhamed M’Barek Toske, Production Design – Mina Buric. Production Company – Circle of Confusion/Royal Viking Entertainment.


Steven Yeun (Derek Cho), Samara Weaving (Melanie Cross), Steven Brand (John ‘The Boss’ Towers), Caroline Chikezie (Kara ‘The Siren’ Powell), Kerry Fox (Irene Smythe), Mark Frost (Ewan Niles), Dallas Roberts (Lester ‘The Reaper’ McGill), Claire Dellamar (Meg), Andre Eriksen (Cotton ‘The Bull’ Snyder), Nikola Kent (Oswald), Lucy Chappell (Jenny)


Derek Cho goes to work on an average day at Towers and Smythe Consulting. He has to turn Melanie Cross down in her appeal for an extension to prevent her family’s mortgage from defaulting even though he knows the company is to blame. He then finds that his superior Kara Powell has framed him for a big screw-up she made. Refusing to accept the company’s payoff that would require him to take the fall, Derek is fired. Just as he is about to be evicted from the premises by security, the building is surrounded by SWAT teams. It has been discovered that there is an outbreak of ID7, a virus that breaks down people’s inhibitions and allows them to give in to every impulse. Towers and Smythe was also the company that successfully legally argued that someone under the influence of ID7 cannot be held responsible for their actions. In short course, the building descends into violence and anarchy. Fighting off attackers, Derek joins forces with Melanie as they seek to get a passkey to the eight floor in order to make CEO John Towers face his actions and have Melanie’s mortgage written off.

Director Joe Lynch has become a genre regular over the last decade. His first film was Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007). This was followed by the Zom-B-Movie segment of the spoof horror anthology Chillerama (2011), the LARPing fantasy film Knights of Badassdom (2013) and the action films Everly (2014), Point Blank (2019) and the H.P. Lovecraft adaptation Suitable Flesh (2023), while he has also produced Ghoul (2015) and the tv mini-series 12 Deadly Days (2016).

With Mayhem, the quickest comparison you can think to make is to Greg McLean’s The Belko Experiment (2016), which came out six months earlier. The Belko Experiment featured workers in an office building being placed into an elimination game where they had to kill each other.

Mayhem conflates the basis of The Belko Experiment with a premise taken from George Romero’s The Crazies (1973) and a bunch of other films that have built on that – see the likes of Impulse (1984), The Signal (2007), Nine Miles Down (2009), YellowBrickRoad (2010), Urge (2016) and Mom & Dad (2017), among others – concerning themselves with an infection that causes an outbreak of mass insanity. (For a more detailed listing see Films About Mass Insanity).

Steven Yuen and Samara Weaving face mass insanity in an office in Mayhem (2017)
Steven Yuen and Samara Weaving face an outbreak of mass insanity in an office

However, resemblances end about there. Where The Belko Experiment concerned itself with a violent survival game and not too much more beyond that, Joe Lynch seems determined to dig in and twist a very dark knife. Greg McLean never concerned himself with office politics but Lynch is writing a dark satire on corporate skulduggery and the script often becomes a funnily nasty work about a vengeful underdog twisting a corporation’s dirty dealings back on them.

Joe Lynch and his cast go at the violence with a great deal of relish. He, Steven Yeun and especially Samara Weaving (just on the point when she was about the be discovered by the Hollywood maintstream) seem to be having the time of their lives stalking about the office engaged in acts of violence with nailguns, hammers and other assorted mayhem.

Trailer here

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