Spoilers could go for some fast food.
I’ll try not to make food puns every other sentence. Getting together a superb cast and bringing them to an isolated location would seem like a setup for a whodunit. Yet, surprisingly the movie resists that temptation and goes into a more niche concept. The weird and the psychotic mix themselves well, but the horror itself is scarce. There’s almost an element of satire here that is played up without ever being campy enough for comedy. We’re going all in.
The Menu (2022) is directed by Mark Mylod and written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy. A reclusive culinary genius, gourmet chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) gives himself the luxury of only allowing a select few to dine at Hawthorn, an exclusive restaurant located in a private island. His planned menu has more than a few shocking surprises for his high class clientele, which includes obsessed foodie Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and his last minute date Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), as well as a group of elite guests.
Now this is not your usual horror film. The idea is not to keep a body count. As a matter fact it works more as a suspense film in which the tension is increased to a breaking point. Each of the characters has a different agenda, and you can tell that the more powerful and wealthy are the less prepared to deal with situation. Fiennes plays Slowik as a dictator that commands a fanatical following to the degree he’s more of a spiritual cult leader than a chef.
Does it work? Overall, sure. The horror is rather subtle and the film depends more on elements of suspense and surrealism. Although the film does make the point of labelling every dish on screen, carefully following and giving a title to each course and dish, you never get a sense of redeeming itself in the end. There is a very subtle anti-establishment underdog theme throughout the film that in the end serves to explain why things happen as they are. There’s a class struggle depicted, but it is hardly resolved. The finale is painted as vengeful catharsis but it does lack some edge to make it completely satisfactory.
Highly recommended with reservations. I found it more than entertaining enough to keep my interest, although calling it a horror film would be a bit of a stretch. It does scratch that itch of weird, sinister and quirky that you rarely see without falling into cliches. However, I did expect it had more of a message and/or subversive twist wrapping the narrative. Worth a watch and possibly a second look.
That will do for now.