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Mayhem (2017)

RLJ Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 12/26/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/29/2017

1968's Night of the Living Dead introduced the world the modern zombie. The film featured reanimated corpses which shuffled very slowly after their victims, in hopes of consuming human flesh. The popularity of this movie spawned a host of imitators, most of which continued the idea of slow, dead zombie. Some other movies offered variations on this theme, but it was 2002's 28 Days Later, that truly turned the tables on the genre. It unveiled the notion that the attacking horde was filled with people who were technically still alive, but were driven mad by a disease, which caused them attack others. And these attacks were performed by assailants who could move very quickly. Thus, the "running zombie" was brought into the world, and this concept has continued to be a popular one. Mayhem attempts to put a new spin on this.

Mayhem introduces us to a world which looks a lot like ours, save for the fact that a virus called "ID-7" exists. The bug causes the victim lose control of their impulses and they give in to their base instincts, acting out violently and sexually. However, a landmark court case allowed a murderer to go free, as he claimed that he has ID-7 and therefore wasn't in control of his actions. The story focuses on Derek Cho (Steven Yeun), a hot-shot young lawyer who works at a competitive company. He's earned his corner office, but he's miserable. He's asked to speak with Melanie Cross (Samara Weaving), a young woman who's trying to keep from losing her home. During their meeting, two things happen -- Derek drinks water laced with ID-7 and he realizes that one of his rivals has made a mistake and his attempting to blame him. Suddenly, the building is quarantined as the virus runs amok, creating floor after floor of violent employees. Free from his conscience, Derek decides that he's going to make his way upstairs in order to clear his name.

Mayhem is one of those movies which was probably fairly easy to pitch, as someone simply had to say to a producer, "It's 28 Days Later meets Office Space". And while that description paints a very vivid picture, it's not 100% accurate, as the film does bring some different things to the table. While the film portrays some of the more absurd aspects of modern workplace culture, it certainly isn't a comedy -- although, it does offer some gallows humor at times. This isn't Office Space or Dilbert, but a sobering reminder that people at work can screw you over at any time and that most employees are seen as replaceable. The unique aspect of Mayhem relates to how the victims of the virus behave. Gone are the slobbering, out of control "zombies" which we've seen in similar films. Instead, the characters here are cognizant and coherent -- they simply have no conscience. Therefore, Derek knows exactly what he is doing and what he has to do in order to get what he wants. He simply doesn't feel bad about what he has to do or who he has to kill to achieve his goal.

The problem with Mayhem is that it never lives up to its name. There is a notable amount of action here and things certainly get violent, but the film also feels oddly restrained. Director Joe Lynch has worked on direct-to-video movies like Wrong Turn 2, and he's starred in the bizarre television show Holliston. And while we know that he's a die-hard fan of horror movies, he actually lets Mayhem wander too far from horror territory. If anything, this turns out to be a mildly bonkers action movie if anything. Yes, people get their skulls bashed in, but there is never anything remotely creepy or scary here. And it becomes very clear that it wasn't meant to be. The movie wants to be a parody in which the cut-throat behavior in the office literally leads to throats being cut.

There was a time when musical "mash-ups" were all the rage and Mayhem wants to be the cinematic equivalent, as it mixes observational humor with violent action. However, this hybrid reveals a movie which may have difficulty finding an audience. Gorehounds may find something to like with the violent scenes, but the "real" aspects of office politics grow tiresome and the movie holds few real thrills. If you want to see a movie which truly isn't afraid to "go there" in its portrayal of how weird work can be, check out 2006's Severance.

Mayhem has some wacky stuff going on in the background on 4K UHD courtesy of RLJ Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p HD transfer which runs at an average of 80 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is notable and the image is never soft. While the transfer is certainly good, it wasn't as crisp as some other 4Ks which I've seen. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While the bitrate for the video is impressive, it's disappointing that the 4K UHD release contains only Blu-ray Disc-level sound. Still, we are treated to some nice stereo effects which highlight sounds coming from off-screen. The surround and subwoofer effects certainly come to life during the action sequences.

The Mayhem 4K UHD contains a small amount of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Joe Lynch, Director of Photography Steve Gainer and Editor Josh Ethier. "Creating Mayhem: The Making of the Film" (12 minutes) offers some on-set footage showing the crew prepping for specific scenes. The bulk of the piece is made up of comments from Lynch, which are peppered with interviews with Yeun and Weaving. "The Collected Works of Derek Cho" (90 seconds) offers a slide-show of the paintings viewed in the film.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long