The Menu (FANTASTIC) Serves Up Delicious Horror Comedy
Title: The Menu
First Non-Festival Release: November 17, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Mark Mylod
Writer: Seth Reiss, Will Tracy
Runtime: 106 Minutes
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival in 2022.
Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) is invited to an exclusive and expensive dinner on a remote island by Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), a food lover. Among the VIPs are food critics, celebrities, and other wealthy regulars who enjoy the fine dining experience mixed with experimental cuisines. They arrive to the island and are introduced to the disciplined crew and their illustrious head chef (Ralph Fiennes). This dinner, however, is no ordinary dinner. As the evening progresses, the dinner guests find themselves at the mercy of the increasingly disturbing courses and the staff that is determined to execute the best dinner ever.
Sharp humor and incensed writing eviscerate the bored and ungrateful elites that pepper the food scene in dark comedy The Menu.
The systems we create are built without the heart of labor, instead, they are maintained to serve those who wish to crush expression. In any venture in which money is exchanged, the attitudes of those who can afford to or have the power and prestige to do so can gatekeep experiences from others, either through access or punishing those who color outside the lines. The Menu challenges those who reap the benefits of these systems without even enjoying what they have to offer while systemically destroying the creativity, innovation, and passion from these ventures.
Why care about something if nothing can ever be good enough? What is there to learn if you know everything? Why go out of your way to indulge in something, if you couldn’t care less about the experience? This applies to any creative field, as those who create break their backs to make beautiful things, while those who consume do little to earn it while remaining ungrateful. The frustrations of artists of any stripe can be echoed in The Menu which makes it far more universal than one might expect. Of course, the concerns presented relate to the foodie community and those who have created empires around these systems.
The Menu builds slow until it switches into its more horrific elements. Once there, the film continues the pace until the bloody and bitter end in the most spectacular of fashions. It perfectly nails the absurdity of the situation while still maintaining tension. Its vision is maintained through its dedication to the deeper themes and its setting. Food and cooking is intertwined into this vision in many creative ways that one might not anticipate.
Several twists in the story are delightfully unexpected. There is a certain amount of caution interwoven into the script to subvert the audience’s expectations on exactly how and why all of this is happening. It makes the finale even more satisfying knowing that the journey tastes just as sweet as the spitfire comedy. Nearly every joke lands, and there is plenty of diversity in the manners of how The Menu engages its audience. From physical humor to recurring gags, there is no shortage of moments designed to take your breath away.
An ensemble film to its core, The Menu gleams with star power. While it would be easy to wax about the captivating intensity of both Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy, the rest of the cast is just as strong. Nicholas Hoult’s obnoxiously know-it-all Tyler has an excellent way of diverting the attention away from the rest of the action from his sheer audacity and Hong Chau’s sharp witted Elsa spits daggers, both overt and covert, throughout the evening in the most satisfying of role reversals for wait staff. John Leguizamo, Janet McTeer, Adam Aalderks, and Paul Adlestein also round out the cast’s stand out performances in character roles.
Transformative satire that tastes as good as it sounds, The Menu is the perfect palate cleanser for those yearning for a riotous horror comedy affair. Dripping in sarcasm and dry wit, the jokes come a mile a minute and do not let up until the gleefully funny end. As brutal as the humor, the script pulls no punches when it comes to lambasting those who suck the joy out of life, and for many, out of their crafts. The real lesson of The Menu isn’t that the food community particularly is awful, but those who denigrate and find fault with everything will be responsible for the destruction of the good things they claim to champion. Lastly, the cast does a tremendous job of playing off each other to give one of 2022’s biggest knockout horror comedies. Believe me, you’ll want to order seconds after tasting The Menu.
Overall Score? 8.5/10