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On this page: MAYHEM | SIGHTINGS
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last update 5.Nov.17
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dir Joe Lynch
scr Matias Caruso
prd Mehrdad Elie, Sean Sorensen, Lawrence Mattis, Matt Smith, Parisa Caviani
with Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Steven Brand, Caroline Chikezie, Kerry Fox, Dallas Roberts, Mark Stewart Frost, Lucy Chappell, Claire Dellamar, Andre Eriksen, Nikola Kent, Bojan Peric
weaving and yeun release US 10.Nov.17
17/US 1h26
Mayhem Fast-paced, with a lively sense of humour, this action thriller plays on the nightmare of corporate culture as it spins a raucous tale of a zombie-like infection. The pitch black comedy is clever, but the film revels in the nastiness as it descends into full-on carnage. And while the idea is clever and the tone amusing, the way it plays out is just too cliched.

When an alien virus hits earth, it causes people to abandon moral instincts. So when officials finally find a cure, legal issues arise. Having won a landmark case, star lawyer Derek (Yeun) is shocked when he's set up to take the fall for a company error. At just this moment, the virus hits the firm and the building is quarantined for eight hours to neutralise the virus. As mayhem erupts among the infected, Derek finds himself teaming up with a stranger (Weaving) who also has a grudge against the execs on the top floor.

It's a hilarious idea to take an already stress-heightened firm and crank the intensity level up exponentially as everyone loses the ability to control their emotions. Angry outburst erupt everywhere, leading to verbal and physical violence. Director Lynch rather revels in the brutality, dwelling on the most gruesome attacks while smirking as if killing someone who annoys you is a joke. Oddly, although they talk about other impulses (sex being the main one), the desire to cause bodily harm clearly trumps everything. Which is perhaps a rather warped view of humanity.

The actors gleefully dive into these exaggerated characters. Yeun manages to remain likeable even when he turns seriously brutal. But then everyone does, unleashing sweary rants and bodily harm at every turn. Weaving is little more than a cackling nutcase, but has some moments of lucidity along the way. As the bosses, Brand, Chikezie, Fox and Roberts are essentially the requisite slimy villains who realise that they will finally have to pay for the vile ways they've been treating everyone.

These kinds of angles add some nice thematic undercurrents along the way. But the script essentially abandons all logic, heading instead into a fantasy about indulging in the most vicious instincts imaginable. And the gyrations of the narrative seem designed merely to stretch a thin idea to feature length. All of which means that attempts to raise some emotion are rather vacuous. And the clever angles on corporate shark culture are lost in the shuffle.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs

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dir-scr Dallas Morgan
prd Dallas Morgan, Tahlia Morgan
with Boo Arnold, Tahlia Morgan, Rawn Erickson II, Jason J Lewis, Dante Basco, Kevin Sizemore, Stephanie Drapeau, Pia Inca, Tiffany Heath, Devin Sarno, Kathy Rose Center, Ron Fallica
arnold, morgan and erickson release US 10.Nov17
17/US 1h28
Sightings Solidly made on a budget, this B-movie thriller has characters strong enough to capture the interest of the audience. Writer-director Dallas Morgan maintains a serious tone eve as the plot becomes fairly ridiculous, very nearly tipping over into gonzo nuttiness. By maintaining a steady, sometimes very slow pace, he creates some proper suspense in the final act. Although the inability to show pretty much anything leaves it feeling rather flimsy.

When beekeeper Rickey (Erickson) reports seeing bigfoot in the woods outside his small East Texas town, just-retired small-town sheriff Tom (Arnold) doesn't believe him. Then he stumbles across two bodies on his ranch. Deputy Brian (Lewis) takes lead to investigate, but doesn't really have the stomach for this. Then the case draws a big-city detective (Sizemore) who sees a Native American connection, plus an expert (Drapeau) who believes this is something supernatural. Meanwhile, Tom's daughter Hannah (Morgan) sees this as a chance to launch her journalism career.

All of this seems to connect with Tom's true-believer wife, Rickey's sister Lillian (Heath in flashbacks), who vanished two years earlier. Tom believes that she left him, while Rickey believes she's been abducted. As the body count grows, it becomes clear something nefarious is going on, especially when Tom and Hannah are attacked by something enormous in the woods. Morgan's understated direction and writing build this mystery inexorably, with moments of emotional resonance along the way.

The actors are also understated. Arnold is the sensible voice of reason in a situation that's increasingly inexplicable. But he, Morgan and Erickson all get a chance to invest some emotion into their performances as they grapple with Lillian's involvement in this story. This background helps make the more plot-driven action engaging, and lets the entire cast add enjoyable wrinkles to their characters. No one ever tries to steal the show, but the sasquatch-hunting posse (Arnold, Erickson, Drapeau and Basco, as a local believer) is great fun.

The filmmaker's gentle approach to the narrative will feel slow for audiences raised on rapid-fire action, and the drama is never deep enough to properly engage the quality cinema crowd. There's also the problem that the effects budget is clearly microscopic. But somewhere in the middle, this is enjoyable for what it is: a silly story played dead straight. It's packed with subtle wit and a strong sense of possibility about where the plot might be headed. And frankly, we can never have too many movies about woolly vampire aliens.

12 themes, grisliness

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