Horror Releases: The Cannibal Club (2018) - Reviewed

With a name like The Cannibal Club, a vast slew of mental images might come to mind:  an unruly posse of Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque bumpkins chomping on human kabobs, or a blood-soaked crew of feral children devouring a disemboweled victim, perhaps.  This film, however, is none of that.  It is, in fact, one of the classiest movies about cannibalism to ever grace a screen.

Gilda and Otavio are your classic power couple.  They bask in luxury, are successful in business, and know exactly what they want out of life.  Unfortunately for their employees, that happens to be human flesh.  Their M.O. is for Gilda to seduce an employee into bed with her after he’s been convinced Otavio is out of town, and while the employee is lost in ecstasy, Otavio murders him from behind.  They dine upon their victims as if they were filet mignon, and as the film progresses, we learn they are part of an affluent secret society who share the same kink.  These big spenders like to start out their gatherings relaying the importance of faith and family over dinner, then stick around for a Grand Guignol sex show in which none of the performers make it out alive.

Grisly subject matter aside, The Cannibal Club is a visually stunning film.  The shot compositions are consistently pleasing to the eye, and the cinematography is immaculate.  An array of static long shots complimenting the lush landscape and opulent architecture make one often forget the dark undertones of the film, and the tendency toward low angle shots on the characters themselves is a subtle reminder that something is amiss.  There is plenty of nudity and gore, and while both the sex and violence are often overt, what sets this film apart from its peers is its sense of restraint at times.  Many moments that could have been shown in a way to make slasher fans glutinous are understated, and this is paramount to making the film work as well as it does.  No matter how gruesome it gets, director Guto Parente knows when to show the violence and when to hold back in a perfect balancing act.

Fernando Catatau’s jazzy score works exceptionally well to set the tone of the film.  Intermingled with resonating synth sounds and ominous piano tinkering, the music drives home the sinister, sensual, chic vibe throughout.  It is two parts Angelo Badalamenti and one part Goblin.  The composer acknowledges the film is undeniably sexy, and its tendency to emphasize this aspect of the film again makes it unique among typical horror films.  If it weren’t for the occasional axe murder and chainsaw dismemberment, The Cannibal Club could easily be described as an erotic thriller, with the score and imagery being as palatable and well-executed as they are.

The most noteworthy aspect of this film is the social commentary.  Set in a part of Brazil where the wealthy are especially wealthy and the poor are especially poor, the film continuously makes a statement about class.  We witness these rich elite quite literally get away with murder almost in plain sight, and it is of little to no consequence.  Their fresh meat supply is overflowing with so many impoverished people desperate for a job:  even though the turnover rate is suspiciously high at Otavio and Gilda’s home, they always seem to have plenty of applicants.  The film is cold satire, with deadpan humor that is barely perceptible at times, but lingering just beneath the surface of every interaction.  When it delves into the corporate world in which the wealthy, remorseless cannibals thrive, it often feels like it is paying homage to American Psycho in a nonderivative way.

The Cannibal Club is a surprisingly tasteful, intelligent jaunt into one of the most taboo subject matters in existence.  It is tightly wrought and razor-sharp, with a satisfying, appropriate conclusion to see you out the door.  Not since Hannibal Lecter have we seen such a refined depiction of maneaters.  If you aren’t put off by a heaping serving of blood and nudity, then consider putting these cannibals next up on your movie menu. 

--Andrea Riley