SXSW
Clark Collis
March 13, 2017 AT 12:00 PM EDT

In the new thriller Mayhem, debuting at SXSW, a dangerous virus that prevents the infected from controlling their inhibitions is discovered in a corporate law building, the very same firm that recently cleared an infected man on murder charges. When a quarantine is issued and the building goes on lockdown, all hell breaks loose inside, and a disgruntled employee (Steven Yeun) and an irate client (Samara Weaving) must fight and even kill their way to the top to “have a word” with the corrupt executives who wronged them before time runs out.

Mayhem is written by Matias Caruso and directed by Joe Lynch, whose previous credits include Wrong Turn 2, the Salma Hayek-starring Everly, and several episodes of recent Blumhouse web series 12 Deadly Days.

“Oddly enough, Mayhem may be my most personal movie,” Lynch says. “I read this script while I was working a corporate job in an office space I came to detest, very much like Steven Yeun’s character Derek. I liked the job for the most part and it paid the bills, but that environment can be difficult to traverse, especially when you’re being tasked to be a ‘creative’ in what’s usually a creatively averse environment. Steven’s journey is every much a reflection of my own, the question of, what’s considered success today? Does success equal happiness and satisfaction?”

“And from my perspective, the current corporate culture is a petri dish of passive aggression and non-confrontation — so what happens if you strip that down and let people act out their true states of mind, unleash their inhibitions?” he continues. “And, frankly, who doesn’t want to see a bunch of white collared legal douchebags tear one another apart? We definitely set out to make a darkly fun movie, a cathartic rollercoaster ride, but there are themes that run deeper for us personally. I think we worked a lot of issues out with this film!”

What was it like to collaborate with Yeun, a genre favorite following his lengthy stint on The Walking Dead?

“Working with the force of nature that is Steven Yeun was amazing, honestly,” says the filmmaker. “I was such a fan of his work from TWD from the very beginning; watching the ‘Pizza Boy’ become a reluctant hero in this expansive character arc, I just loved Steven on that show for being so grounded and relatable and funny. He was ‘us’ in this insane world in the show. And when we met and discussed the role, immediately I knew he was our modern everyman and that I wanted to take this dark, crazy ride with him. Working with Steven and Samara Weaving was one of the most gratifying actor collaborations I’ve had with actors and it totally shows on-screen when these two inmates take over the asylum, so to speak.”

Mayhem costars Dallas Mark Roberts, Caroline Chikezie, Mark Stewart Frost, Kerry Fox, Lucy Chappell, and Steven Brand. Lynch’s film will receive its world premiere at the SXSW Festival Monday, March 13, and screens three more times in Austin over the next week.

See a still from Mayhem and the film’s new poster, premiering exclusively here, below.

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