Mayhem follows Derek Cho (Steven Yeun of The Walking Dead Fame), a fast-rising employee who finds he has sold his soul to the corporate world as he navigates his way through his office, which is in quarantine after the outbreak of a virus which rises stress level hormones, causing people to act out their wildest impulses. Cue apparently necessary office sex-scenes here.
There are other plot nuances involving corporate terminology, complicated framing and manipulation, but the movie moves along too quickly for these to be picked up.
“Breakneck pace never gives up”
The film opens engagingly enough, utilising a super-fast pace full of voiceover narration and short, sharp cut scenes to keep the momentum running, coupled with an almost omni-present soundtrack of re-appropriated classical music, ’80s horror SFX and a crescendo of lived-in office noises propelling the story along – but this breakneck pace never gives up and the plot details are lost somewhere along the way.
“The action is stale and unexciting”
On top of this, the gorgeous cinematography seemingly promised by the first 2 and a half minutes of the film is never delivered. The largely black-and-white action sequence with hints of dark blue throwing red blood into sharp contrast which opens the movie is beautiful, but never followed up after the title card blasts its way onto the screen. For the most part, the action is – and keep in mind this film is supposed to be cathartic – stale and unexciting, with hints of graphic violence skirted over. Until the second half of the movie that is, when the now-almost grotesque violence is allowed to flourish, with well-thought-out choreography making good on the film’s promise of being a slasher.
However, one can’t help but feel that if these violent instances appeared earlier on in the film, the audience would have been a lot more motivated to keep on watching.
“Well-earned interpersonal character development”
A major problem with the movie as a whole is that it feels like two different films. The second half, violence galore and featuring (finally) some well-earned interpersonal character development, could have achieved cult movie status in itself, it’s just a shame that viewers have to trawl through almost an hour of unexciting, almost incomprehensible mediocrity to get to this point.
“The production team appears to have tried a little too hard”
This movie might not be about plot or character (I’ll get to that later), but with most of the characters being may-as-well-be-anonymous caricatures, it’s impossible to care about anything that happens until the end. The production team even appears to have tried a little too hard to make Cho sympathetic, but as his first character drive is getting angry that a co-worker is drinking from his mug (really), he comes off as a childish ass. Sure, the mug might carry emotional weight, but we only learn about this toward the end of the film, ensuring his tantrum is still baffling first time around.
“The message doesn’t need to shoved down audiences’ throats the whole time”
I mentioned that the film isn’t about plot or character, but apparently it isn’t about violence, either. Instead, the whole 86 minutes serve as an extended analogy for (a) how people sell their souls to corporations, and (b), how the bosses of these corporations treat employees like shit. Basically, capitalism is bad – and though it’s a fair message, it doesn’t need to be shoved down audiences’ throats the whole time.
Apparently the filmmakers didn’t take the 101 on subtlety (much of the violence could have been improved with greater attention to detail), and despite the fact that this message is oh-so-obvious from the (I suppose you can call it) plot, the narrator still feels the need to tell it to us explicitly a few times throughout.
“There are a couple of laugh out loud moments”
Another issue is that, for an apparent comedy horror, so few of the jokes seem to land, either because the punchline is lost in the too-fast pace before it even lands or just because they simply aren’t funny. There are a couple of laugh out loud moments, but these tend to appear toward the end of the film, which actually allows some of the scenes, and by extension, characters, room to breathe.
“Dialogue is clumsy”
Unfortunately the pay-off the last half-hour or so offers, while genuinely exciting and engaging, isn’t great enough to justify the drab that is most of the film. Dialogue is clumsy and the whole things takes too long building toward a climax that takes too long to come. If you’re looking for satisfying cathartic horror-comedy, look elsewhere. A few instances of great cinematography isn’t enough to save an otherwise disappointing film. Avoid.
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Image Courtesy of Broadway Cinema.