The Menu stars Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) as Margot, the date of pretentious foodie Tyler, played by Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies), who is taking her to experience a world-renowned private dinner on a small island. The meal is prepared by acclaimed Chef Julian Slowik, played by Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter). As the evening accelerates and the courses are served, the dinner devolves into a heinous game to determine which diners can make it to the final course.
The Menu is at its’ core a black comedy packed with social commentary and a fair share of violence. With no clear genre, it almost feels as if you placed Midsommar, Chef and Ready or Not in a blender and made a nice purèe. The film builds tension effortlessly, with layers of mystery and unease spilling out from every pore of the mysterious island as the guests arrive. Coupled with masterful sound design and sweeping shots of the cooking process that look fresh off of your favorite Food Network show, the movie settles you in early with intense and hesitant curiosity. The blend of comedy and horror has been a staple of the industry as of late, and bottomless laughs certainly come with your meal in The Menu, establishing itself as one of the most genuinely hilarious movies of the year. The juxtaposition of chuckles and chills keeps viewers intensely engaged and weaves the story along to an absurd final act that somehow lands squarely on its’ feet.
Ralph Fiennes has mastered the unhinged villain with his performance in The Menu.
Anya Taylor-Joy brilliantly anchors a star-studded cast as a vessel, being the only seemingly non-wealthy attendee. Her character being grounded and just as confused as the audience gives some sensibility to the chaos happening around her. Nicholas Hoult seamlessly transforms into the snobbiest foodie you’ve ever heard speak, eliciting an eye roll every time he opens his mouth. Fiennes steals the show, however, delivering an electric performance as jaded Chef Slowik. His monologues and monotone delivery of truly horrifying situations elevate this dark comedy above others in the genre.
Nicholas Hoult in THE MENU. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.
While the film is generally an absolutely thrilling experience, the second act moving into the third gets a little bogged down and stretched out with one too many tricks by Chef Julian. This leaves the back middle feeling a little overplayed and breaks a little of the tension the movie had been invested in building up. The social commentary can feel a bit on the nose and overexposed at times. The anti-rich rhetoric is very prevalent throughout and very heavy-handed. There is also a particular twist I would have liked to have seen revealed about 20 minutes later than it was.
The nitpicks are few and far between though when it comes to unbridled originality and a fresh take on a genre that continues to evolve. The Menu is yet another offering in a smorgasbord of the new renaissance of horror filmmaking we are living through. Grab a reservation and take a seat at the table to enjoy a few courses of belly laughs, violence, and intense horror in this stylistic and delicious entry into the genre.
Have you been served up the courses of The Menu? Let us know how you feel in the comments below.