Movie review: Virus-induced violence in 'Mayhem'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 10 2017 01:06 PM

Being in the medical field, movies about viral infections really freak me out. There have been films about bugs which hew close to real-life viruses, like the Matoba virus in "Outbreak" (1995) inspired by Ebola Virus, or the MEV-1 virus in "Contagion" (2011) inspired by the bird flu.

But there had also been highly fictional viruses (we hope) like that in "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) that brings dead people back to life (giving birth to zombie films), or "28 Days Later" (2002) that turns infected people into murderous creatures. Add "Mayhem" to the second kind.

This new virus is called ID-7, also called the Red Eye Virus. When a person gets infected, his id totally takes over his person, and he loses all moral control, causing him to do absolutely anything he wants to do -- however depraved or violent. The virus itself is not deadly, but the person infected is. A court had already decided to acquit a person of murder because he was under the influence of the virus, setting a dangerous legal precedent.

An outbreak of ID-7 has taken over the building of Towne and Smythe Consulting, turning everyone inside into lunatics indulging in unbridled sex and violence. CDC placed it under an 8-hour lockdown until an airborne disinfectant can take effect. Fired lawyer Derek Cho whipped up a plan, together with another disgruntled lawyer Melanie Cross, to take advantage of the killing wave in the building to fight their way up and barge into the penthouse board room in order to assert their rights to the unscrupulous big bosses John Towne and Irene Smythe, by fair means or foul.

I am not fond of gory films. I purposely missed watching "Jigsaw" (or any of the "Saw" films before it), but I end up watching this instead. When this movie eventually turned out to be a relentlessly gore-fest, I admit was not looking directly at the screen anymore whenever that hammer, or rotatory saw blade, or sharp scissors was about to graphically ram into and maim someone's body. As the film goes on, we will be treated to all sorts of gruesome fight scenes and death scenes. It was sickening for me, but I'm sure some people would find this sick in a cool sort of way.

By the over-the-top way all the actors were portraying their roles, you know the intention of director Joe Lynch for the film was comedy. Admittedly, some of the scenes and lines were pretty amusing (well, until the next bloody death came along). I never watched "Walking Dead," so it was my first time to see lead actor Steve Yeun, who played Derek Cho. Samara Weaving (yes, she is Hugo's niece) played Derek's pretty partner in crime Melanie. Steven Brand and Kerry Fox played the despicable bosses Townes and Smythe with a perpetual evil smirk.

As Freud described it, the id has no morals. It only wants instant gratification. An integral part of the id is the aggressive instinct of destruction which only sought to destroy things that get in our way of getting what we want. This film's showcase for the human id could be fun in a dark, morbid sort of way, but the insanely excessive gore in its murder and mutilation scenes were too much for me. Nevertheless, I did like the attempt at redemption at the end, leaving the audience with a positive message after all the mayhem. 4/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."