Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) stars in this posh, claustrophobic horror flick that pits bourgeoise guests at an elite dining establishment against the head chef (Ralph Fiennes), whose multi-course menu is designed for a sinister purpose. The plates begin somewhat confusing but interesting, but soon escalate with exposed secrets, exhibitionist suicide, and a promise from Fiennes that everyone will, in fact, be dead by the night’s end. But Fiennes takes possible exception with Taylor-Joy, a last-minute date replacement who was not on the original guest list. Can she save herself from the chef’s nihilistic master plan, or will she die with her culinary sycophant boyfriend (Nicholas Hoult) and the rest of the doomed diners?
The Menu hooked me from the start and moved remarkably well through its first half. The darkly comic performances, widescreen cinematography, and striking score all worked together to create a sense of wonder and amusement. There is also a healthy sense of mystery that drives the story for a while — what the hell is actually going on here? The answer is a bit less satisfying than its anticipation, but The Menu never fully loses momentum. The screenplay flirts with some deeper, sociological statements that have been cinematically depicted many times before, but are still relevant nonetheless. The film ultimately plays a bit lose with its philosophical underpinnings — all in the name of entertainment — which could leave casual horror fans delighted, or those looking for something juicer just a tad disappointed. I went into it looking for a moderately entertaining little horror movie, and was pleasantly surprised how fun and well put together it is.
Directed by Mark Mylod; screenplay by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy; with Hong Chau, John Leguizamo, and Judith Light.