An invitation to dine with a melting pot of wealthy guests on a private island, spending the evening eating delectable dishes, all cooked by a world-class chef in his world-class restaurant, sounds like every foodie’s ultimate fantasy… and perhaps a little too good to be true to happen to the ordinary person.
Margot Mills, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, is the ordinary person who quickly finds out that, yes, this night will be a bit less bourgeois and a lot more barbaric.
How was it?
The Menu is another one of Taylor-Joy’s enrapturing and fear-striking performances; starring previously in Last Night in Soho and Split, she’s quickly becoming a contender for princess of horror. Her fast-rising fame is one that’s well earned, and The Menu is just another great contribution to her roster of excellent jobs.
Her fellow castmates, Nicholas Hoult and Ralph Fiennes, also delivered an enthralling performance; they portray director Mark Mylod and co-writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy’s niche of ludicrously rich people’s naïve yet witty humour just as well as the cast in the award-winning HBO series Succession do.
However, whilst the cast certainly captivated, the promising score and beautiful landscape were a little underutilised for a film that calls itself a horror.
Sinister staff on an essentially desolate dark island with no service and a deep vast woodland should be a horror film maker’s perfect playground. There was so many opportunities to tantalise and terrorise the audience through the sound and sight of the scenery, or using anything other than the star-studded cast, but it just didn’t really happen – or at least, there wasn’t enough of it to be a classed a really good horror.
The plot itself was intriguing and well-paced, although not stretched to it’s full potential. Some interesting elements went largely unexplored, and they were the parts that could have really brought this film to be a strong horror.
Luckily, there was still enough twists and turns to maintain your interest, not to mention the several jumps that had you clutching on to your popcorn (I’ll never hear ‘Yes, Chef!’ the same again).
As well as this, the opening has some unfortunately obvious nods to the message and conclusion of the film; it was less foreshadowing, more a neon-sign saying, “Here! This is how this movie will end!”
Social commentary horrors, such as Jordan Peele’s Get Out (and the others in his excellent collection), are coming back big-time, and The Menu adds to the case of not only why they’re fun and fascinating films, but also why they’re important stories to put out there.
Whilst it’s probably less of a horror and more of a thriller with some timely jump scares, the dark comedy certainly comes into play with the over-arching message never once fading from view- and the message is what makes it nicely scary.
Ultimately, the drawbacks are minor and The Menu, especially Taylor-Joy’s performance, delivers a tasty experience that’s worth your while.
Feature image credit: Searchlight Pictures