Dinner is served

Flavorful new horror film ate it up

Fair use from Searchlight Pictures

Fair use from Searchlight Pictures

Maren Wilsey

When the end credits began to roll for the star-studded new horror/comedy, “The Menu,” I found myself rooted in place with shock. I came into the film with low expectations — I’m not a horror fan and I assumed a culinary horror could only finish with a cliche, cannibal-centric ending. I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

The premise of this gripping movie is relatively simple. A small group of wealthy patrons travel to an exclusive restaurant on a secluded island for a night of fine dining. They’re hosted by the enigmatic Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Finnes) and his militant staff. As the dishes are served, things start to get heated for the guests. 

One of most exciting names in young Hollywood right now, Anya Taylor-Joy, stars as the unwilling date brought along on the exclusive dining experience. Nicholas Holt serves up an excruciating performance as her vapid foodie boyfriend — a realistic miscreant sure to make any viewer groan the moment he opens his mouth. Ralph Finnes completes the main trio of stars with an unsettling take on the obsessed artist trope. Every actor delivers a memorable performance, and as the storylines build, I found myself totally absorbed in the antics. 

The acting as a whole was captivating, even from the smallest of roles. As the film progresses, we are introduced to the other guests and begin to learn more about them. From the Sue Sylvester look-alike food critic and her assistant to the entitled trio of finance bros, each guest stood out in their own right. The kitchen staff had smaller, but no less important, roles. Their rigid facade was nearly perfect, serving to increase the significance of when it cracked. Many of the performances were so disturbing, I’m still rattled by them. 

One of the standout aspects of the film was how it was able to keep me on the edge of my seat the entire time. The film was broken up into parts by cutting to shots listing each course of the meal and subsequently using language that mirrored the story progression as well. This was a clever way to force the viewer to catch their breath, as the contrast from the intensity of the movie to the calm view of a food dish was as shocking as any jumpscare.

Though not a service worker myself, it was clear to see the film’s commentary about the service industry. In no uncertain terms, “The Menu” wanted the audience to know that rich people are always the problem. Though it wasn’t subtle, the message was delivered quite effectively, leaving me satisfied, though a bit disturbed, by the end. Through each gripping twist and turn, the loose ends were tied up nicely by the time the credits rolled. 

One of my most important takeaways from “The Menu” is that it once again proved everything that Anya Taylor-Joy touches turns to gold. Perfect for any fan of “Midsommar,” it balances comedy and drama in a way that anyone can find something to enjoy. The icing on the cake is a runtime that clocks in at just over an hour and 45 minutes. It fits everything in and is short enough to keep your attention the entire time. If you’re hungry for a quality movie, “The Menu” will satiate your appetite. 


“The Menu:” ★★★★★