Marketed as an upscale horror-comedy, “The Menu,” directed by Mark Mylod, presents a satirical take on toxic foodie culture that is anything but subtle.
When visualizing the concept map for a horror plotline, classic slasher and creepy ghost stories come to mind. As soon as “The Menu” dropped the first trailer, viewers realized they were in for an out-of-the-ordinary horror film.
At Hawthorne, the restaurant set on a private island and owned by Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), each dish is served with a deliciously ominous backstory and a savory side of attitude.
Seated a few feet from Slowik is a wide variety of one-percenters who have dropped a large sum of cash to get a taste of the renowned chef’s meals. Among them is star-struck fan Tyler (Nicholas Holt) and his odd last-minute date, Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy). Supporting these three are restaurant critic Lillian (Janet McTeer), known for highly negative ratings worthy of shutting down businesses, three insufferable tech bros (Rob Yang, Arturo Castro and Mark St. Cyr) and a fading actor (John Leguizamo) hoping to make his comeback with a traveling culinary show.
“The Menu” is divided by its courses, with each dish and its ingredients listed on the screen. As each course gets more bizarre, the guests are threatened and the film takes a thrilling turn.
Although the plot goes where one would expect, director Mark Mylod and writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy creatively weave in striking surprises along the way. Each scene is carefully structured such that the audience can’t help but await the impending doom of the insufferable guest list.
With snappy remarks and honest responses, Margot humbles the egotistical chef and Slowik recognizes the challenge. Intrigued by her working-class attributes, Margot throws the chef off his balance, wrinkling his plans. Both Fiennes and Taylor-Joy present impeccable performances, adding both to the comedic and horrifying qualities of the film with drastically different character choices.
Stirring splashes of horror into a compelling symbolic comedy, “The Menu” is a black comedy, including all things dark, hilarious and unsettling. Some may critique the clumsy element of the film, docking some points for branding it as a horror film, but it does an excellent job of entertaining an audience — and if everyone is having a good time, it’s difficult not to join them.
Rated R for slaying, serving, suicide, language, strong violent content and some sexual references. Runtime: 1 hour 46 minutes. In theaters.