The Menu is an American horror comedy film directed by Mark Mylod, released in 2022. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes and Nicholas Hoult.

Eat the Rich

© searchlight Pictures

Away with the cigarette! Smoking affects the taste. Right at the start, Margot, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, has to listen to a lecture from her partner. Both are waiting for the ferry that will take them to a very special dinner. What awaits her there is far from what the beholder could expect…Under the obvious social criticism of The Menu lurk several double bottoms that are on a confrontational course with our viewing behavior.

On the small island of Hawthorne, a group of well-heeled people gather to try Chef Slowik’s (played by Ralph Fiennes) new menu. “Don’t eat, taste it!”, the star chef admonishes his guests, who include Margot and her boyfriend Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), an influential gastro critic (Janet McTeer), a  and a prominent actor (John Leguizamo). Margot soon has to realize that there is a clever plan behind the dinner. The menu doesn’t provide for anyone leaving the restaurant alive…

Chef Slowik has his team fully in his hands – and otherwise tends to borderline dictatorial methods.

First of all, The Menu is a horror satire that spreads uneasiness with relish, only to hit new hooks afterwards. One follows this film with a feeling of permanent insecurity. How far will he push the escalation? Is it all just a clever trick after all? The screenplay impresses with its unpredictability and callousness right to the end.

Ralph Fiennes shines as a demonic master chef

© searchlight Pictures

A clapping shatters the nervous atmosphere. Enter Ralph Fiennes. He plays the chef with an eerie presence, oscillating between cunning calculation, cool looks and sheer madness. When he claps his hands, the staff stands to attention and the guests jump in shock. A shock effect that is used repeatedly, which always shakes us awake when we have settled in too much in this spectacle.

In general, devotion and seduction are the big themes of The Menu. How willing are you to let yourself be taken in by the chamber play? And above all: How far do you follow the chef’s sinister plan?

Everyone plays along – but for how long?

In several scenes, “The Menu” presents itself as an experimental arrangement that aims at disclosing the military and fascist constellations and power relations. At some point, high society realizes that they are trapped. But how determined is everyone to resist the tyrant? “The Menu” finds an uncomfortable answer. Even when the guests are brutally attacked at some point, some still believe in harmless theatre, shows and special effects.

This is where The Menu becomes so dangerous, so interesting and so ambivalent when viewed as a film about submission to art. Again and again the chef is spoken of as an artist. Nicholas Hoult’s character raves about the brilliance and radicalism of how he conceives the dinner as a narrative. In fact, “The Menu” presents the staging of a totalitarian work of art. A performance that wants to devour its guests skin and hair. As a pleasure, but also as terror that appeals to all the senses: from smelling, hearing and tasting to looking at the dish being prepared in the open kitchen – and then the tentative feeling of physical violence as a bonus.