“The Menu” – Equals Parts Brutal Horror and Dark Comedy (Spoiler Free Review)

To some food is nothing more than the fuel we use to keep going.  To others, it is a precious art form that gives life itself.  Whether you consider yourself a foodie, food snob, or someone who doesn’t think much about food at all, The Menu is a film that probably has a character like you.  Using an incredibly dark and sarcastic sense of humor, it satirizes the entire “food debate”, while also lampooning elitism, all with a violent horror twist!  It is equal parts clever, funny, and brutal!

The Art of Exclusivity
We open with Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and his date Margo (Anya Taylor-Joy) as they embark on a boat bound for an island for the most exclusive dining experience in the world.  They are joined by other elites, including a famous actor (John Lequizamo), his assistant (Aimee Carrero), a trio of “finance bros”, and a food critic, among others.

Menu 4
Tyler gets more and more insufferable as the movie goes until you’re just begging for something horrible to happen to him.

Tyler is among the food elites who sees the culinary arts almost like a religion, while Margo is much more an audience stand-in, someone who very likely hasn’t dined at a restaurant that you have to sail on a boat to reach.  Upon arrival, Margo takes notice of how strange and almost cult-like the kitchen staff is.

This is all culminated by Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) who absolutely steals this movie.  He acts as both cult leader to his staff and a chef so dedicated to his craft that it borders on the psychotic.  His elegantly unhinged performance is very much the highlight of the film.  You see a man obsessed with his craft, willing to go to extreme lengths for its sake.  And while you’re horrified by what he does, you’re also extremely entertained by it.

Menu 2
He oozes unpredictability, which makes him all the more volatile and terrifying (but also hilarious at times).

The Art of Food
Beneath the film’s horror and comedy, it’s infused with a fascinating examination and critique around the entire idea of snobbery.  It satirizes elitism, the divide between those who consume and those who provide, all through the lens of food.  It’s very much like if someone took a cooking show but added a dash of Saw.

It simultaneously mocks those who take food too seriously, but also stresses the importance and value of the culinary arts.  There’s also a running fourth wall break as each course is laid out for the audience, and when you see that Adam McKay (director of Vice, Don’t Look Up, and The Big Short) produced the film, these tactics don’t seem all that surprising.

Menu 1
Anya Taylor Joy fits perfectly in this world as a protagonist who relies more on outsmarting her enemies rather than brute force.

Its humor and jokes are plentiful, and no one is really safe (both literally and figuratively).  Through the extreme methods of the psychotic chef, we do see where he’s coming from, while also being appalled that he’s taking things this far.  Honestly, there’s so much more I’d like to write, but it’s hard to discuss this film without spoiling it.

The Art of Death (Very Minor Spoilers)
For those who went in expecting this movie to be a retelling of “The Most Dangerous Game” or having to do with cannibalism, it will subvert that expectation.  Instead, it’s much more about how obsession and pretentiousness can lead us down a path that we don’t even recognize ridiculousness anymore.

Menu cover
To them, food is a religion. And the thing is, there really are people like that.

That said, those looking for a fun and violent horror movie won’t be disappointed.  Granted, it is a bit slower paced in the first half, but that’s just the film doing the necessary prep work in order to deliver the main course that is the second half, and especially the last 15 minutes.  You’ll find yourself shocked at times, but a clever laugh is never far behind.

So if your palette includes a taste for dark humor, sarcasm, and death, The Menu is certainly a film you’ll enjoy and won’t want to send back!

What did you think of The Menu?  Would you eat at this restaurant?  Let us know in the comments!

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