CW: This article references suicide. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.
Taking place in a high-end restaurant where guests find themselves in a deadly trap, “The Menu” keeps its audience in suspense, inviting them to savor every new scene.
“The Menu” is a highly celebrated 2022 satirical horror/comedy directed by Mark Mylod, known for his work on critically acclaimed series such as “Game of Thrones” and “Shameless.” The film stars a talented ensemble cast, including well-known actors like Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult and Janet McTeer.
The film opens with a group of aristocrats arriving at a secretive and exclusive dining experience, where they are promised a $1,250 meal like no other. Created and run by Chef Slowik (Fiennes), the restaurant is located on its own island — Hawthorn Island, a 12-acre farm-to-table destination.
We first meet Tyler (Hoult), a seemingly devoted foodie geek, who has brought along a date, Margot (Taylor-Joy). Margot stands out from the crowd from the beginning, and noticeably does not buy into the allure of Chef Slowik’s elite dining experience.
The rest of the guests are various members of the ultra-elite, from food critic Lillian (McTeer), who prides herself on writing scathing reviews that close restaurants, to three obnoxious Wall Street workers (Arturo Castro, Rob Yang, and Mark St. Cyr) to a declining movie star (John Leguizamo) and his assistant (Aimee Carrero).
The enigmatic Chef Slowik begins each course with a wordy monologue about the deeper meaning of the food, prompting feigned contemplation from the guests and even tears from Tyler. It soon becomes clear that Chef Slowik is parodying the culture of fine dining, and as the night progresses, his dark intentions grow clearer and clearer. Each diner goes on a different journey of denial of their fate, but soon, all the guests realize that their meal is heading in a dangerous direction.
The film’s cinematography is stunning, capturing the constantly shifting mood of the film and creating a sense of unease that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. The lighting and camera work are used to great effect, building tension and adding to the overall intensity of the film. The film’s score is also noteworthy, with a haunting soundtrack that adds to the suspense.
Another standout aspect of “The Menu” is the film’s script. The film is well-written and well-crafted, with a suspenseful and unpredictable plot and scenes that are ingeniously presented as different dishes on a menu. The twists and turns of the film keep audiences guessing, creating an experience that is full of surprises.
Most of the characters are well-developed as well, their motivations and backstories explored through creative means, rather than simple exposition. “The Menu” also does an excellent job of exploring the relationships between characters, adding depth and nuance to the story.
Mylod’s direction is masterful, bringing together elements of comedy and drama to create a thrilling experience. He succeeds in exploring the world of high-end cuisine and the eccentricities of the chefs who create it. The film offers a unique and entertaining look at the culinary arts, with elements of dark comedy and drama woven together to create a captivating story.
Nevertheless, “The Menu” won’t be for everyone. Some may claim the satirical element is pushed too far, and some of the characters are less fleshed out than others. For example, Anne (Judith Light), the partner of cheating businessman Richard (Reed Birney), is given little substance or backstory. There is also a macabre depiction of suicide, which may be upsetting for some viewers.
Despite the flaws of “The Menu,” the script and steep downward spiral of the story are incredibly entertaining. The film’s talented cast, stunning cinematography and well-written script all come together to create an unforgettable viewing experience.
Whether you’re a fan of satirical horror or simply looking for a suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat movie, “The Menu” is not to be missed.
Resources: On-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Service (202-687-6985); additional off-campus resources include the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255).
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