Mayhem is a fun, dark if slight horror flick, a dark comedy about the drudgery of office work and the catharsis of killing all of your co-workers. It’s a film with elements of zombie flicks, video game plots and schlock fests like Outbreak, all told with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Steven Yeun plays Derek Cho, a hardworking junior lawyer who gets screwed over at his job when those higher up scapegoat him for their own mess-up. His case relied upon a successful defence due to a new “rage virus” that removed culpability from those committing the acts. When this virus (ID-7 for those keeping track) makes its way into Cho’s building the inevitable slaughter begins. With SWAT teams arriving the building is closed down in order to keep the mania contained, come what may. Teaming up with a disgruntled client Melanie Cross (Samara Weaving) the two claw their way to the top, working their way floor-by-floor through the manic carnage.
Joe Lynch’s film does fairly well bringing Matias Caruso’s story to life, injecting just enough flair to keep things interesting. What the film lacks in originality it makes up for in gusto, finding ways of keeping the killing interesting as it goes along. Unfortunately the work doesn’t really know how to attenuate its satire – the coke-sniffing lunatic boss (Steven Brand) is never anything more than a two-dimensional cartoon villain, while the others along the way feel even less developed. Without too much in the way of change some character complexity surely could have been added, giving a little bit more in the way of empathy or even moral ambivalence as the slaughter takes place.
Still, this isn’t the stuff for overthink, and for the most part Mayhem lives up to its name, providing some fun along the way as the blood curdles on the floor and the good guys make their way through the onslaught.
A low-budget horror film shot with 2K digital cameras, the 4K UHD discs/1080p combo provides an interesting test to see what benefits if any are gained by the extra bandwidth for the new format. Flipping back and forth, it’s clear that the UHD upconvert has richer colours and deals with the video noise better than the BD disc, helping illustrate that offline upconversion is at times beneficial when playing back content on your fancy new 4K TV.
Unlike most studio releases the title hasn’t been given the HDR (High Dynamic Range) treatment, expanding the colour space and thus often providing an even more radical departure from the BD release. Here the lack of that checkbox feature is welcome, as the film already has a glossy, generic look in keeping with the office environment, no requiring of a post-production boost to somehow make things look more glamourous.
Sound wise the same mix is used on both discs, meaning the choice comes down to which video presentation you’d stick with. While hardly reference material in any case, there’s a clear advantage to the 4K, and it’s likely the best this film will ever look and closest to the theatrical presentation.
Both the BD and UHD discs have the same additional material, making the odds of you futzing with the Blu-ray even more slim. There are a slew of 1080p trailers to be fast forwarded through (well, except for WolfCop), as well as an obnoxious little piece with Adam Green about fan mail that luckily is easily fast forwarded through.
The main supplements include a series of painting attributed to Derek Cho, showing key scenes in the film illustrated with oil on canvas. It’s hardly the stuff of Criterion legend, but at under two minutes long it’s bearable.
There’s a twelve minute “making of” EPK cuts together the usual B-roll and straight forward interviews that are pretty useless for anyone that’s actually seen the film. What sets it apart is some of the more personal stories that Lynch provides, including his concern about how it’d play with the audience.
Finally, there’s a “technical commentary” with Lynch, DOP Steve Gainer and Editor Josh Ethier. While it sounds like it was recorded on a smartphone, it does providing a refreshingly candid look at the production that’s both informative, compelling and deliciously nerdy. Lynch takes seriously his work, finding some of the deeper levels he was exploring with the work, and along with his collaborators they provide even more appreciation for the film by gifting to low-budget filmmakers some of their own lessons learned during the shoot.
Mayhem is a silly, sordid little flick that’s made by filmmakers doing their utmost to provide something that conforms with genre expectations and rises above them with glimpses of more profound narrative ambitions. It may not quite land every punch, but it’s a fun film that’s even better with a rapt audience, a work that provides loads of blood and gore with a little bit of brain to go along with the rest of the strewn body parts. The UHD is a welcome if subtle upgrade to the BD disc included, and at the least shows that even for films of this scope the move to higher definition playback is a boon for any fan of home theatrical presentation.
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