Spook Meets Satire in New Movie “The Menu”


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Chef Julian (Ralph Finneas) stands over his devoted sous chefs in the Hawthorne restaurant of The Menu.

Has the thought of a satirical dinner outing ever crossed your mind? Is a comedic thriller your cup of tea? Do you enjoy famed actors such as Ralph Finneas or Anya Taylor-Joy? If so, The Menu is the movie for you.

(Warning: spoilers ahead!)

A “dark comedy horror thriller,” The Menu tells the story of a group of wealthy customers dining at a top-tier restaurant on a private island. The restaurant, called Hawthorne, is a high end, fine dining experience (key word: experience). Wealthy food critics and businessmen alike flock to this esteemed restaurant, but the film especially focuses on main characters Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her boyfriend Tyler (Nicholas Hoult). The couple and the ten other guests arrive at the island, oblivious to the fact that it’s a total death trap.

Each of the guests represents an annoying customer that would typically frequent an expensive restaurant. One old married couple has visited the restaurant 11 times but can’t remember a single dish they’ve eaten. Three businessmen boast of their wealth, and a movie star complains about the paparazzi. Tyler is an amateur “foodie” who tries to appreciate everything on the chef’s menu, even as the night deteriorates.

The elaborate meal consists of several courses and is designed to be an indulgence into the most exquisite cuisines – plus some uneasy information that makes the customers’ hair stand on end. When the third course reveals tacos with tortillas screen printed with photos, receipts, and exposés about the guests, they realize that the night is taking a turn for the worst.

The fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh courses progressively get bloodier. The fourth course, titled, “The Mess,” was created by a sous chef on Chef Julian’s (Ralph Finneas) staff. Chef Julian questions the sous chef about his satisfaction with his life, then carries on with the course. What’s the course? A gun to the throat. The sous chef kills himself as a reflection of the mess his life has become.

A female sous chef presents “Man’s Folly,” the fifth course, after explaining Chef Julian’s sexual advances. This course presentation takes place outside, and male guests are given the opportunity to run away. They all do, and the female chef stabs Chef Julian in the thigh. The escaped men are caught and returned back to the dining room, and the night goes on.

In a few conversations with Margot, Chef Julian reveals that the entire evening has been painstakingly planned as part of “the Menu.” Even the guests at the restaurant were predetermined by the chef. However, Margot is the only guest who wasn’t a part of his original list. She tells the chef that her real name is actually Erin, and she was a prostitute hired by Tyler to accompany him to dinner that night.

For the sixth course, Chef Julian singles out Tyler. Chef reveals to Margot that Tyler knew all along all the customers would die this evening, and he invited her anyway. Since Tyler knows so much about food, the Chef invites him into the kitchen to create a dish. He calls the undercooked lamb and overcooked vegetables, “Tyler’s Bullshit.” Chef Julian whispers a few words to Tyler, and he disappears behind the kitchen door. The camera pans to Tyler’s feet hanging off the floor, implying that he hung himself. This is a critique of Tyler’s (and all foodies’) blind adoration for the Chef.

Chef Julian sends Margot out to the smokehouse to find a barrel for the last course, and she encounters the chef’s off-limits house. She discovers an old photo of him smiling, receiving employee of the month at a burger joint. Upon her return to the dining room, she boldly tells Chef Julian that she doesn’t like the food, and instead would like to order a cheeseburger. The guests hold their breath as a smiling Chef prepares a burger, and after taking a bite of the burger, Margot requests a to-go box. Her wish is granted and she leaves the restaurant, taking a Coast Guard boat back to the mainland.

Ultimately, the Chef plans their deaths as a critique of the “servant vs served” dynamic at a restaurant. The final course is an American classic: s’mores. A messy, sticky, smoky combination of graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows create a treat that many food critics turn up their noses at. The guests themselves become the s’mores, with chocolate hats and marshmallow bibs tying them to their chairs. The kitchen staff sprinkles Graham cracker crumbs across the floor and tops the dish with a brush of lighter fluid. Chef Julian thinks s’mores are an “insult” to his culinary skills; it’s ironic that a group of well-to-do customers dies such a “simple” death. A strike of a match puts the entire restaurant and the customers up in flames while Margot watches from the shore and finishes her burger.

Although a little strange, The Menu’s nonchalant gore, its dry, dark humor, and its satirical story line make it an excellent movie. The contrast between the customers losing their minds as they catch on and the staff being so unconcerned is so stark it’s, of course, almost funny.

We initially didn’t decide to go out and watch The Menu, but it ended up being at a convenient time and the prospect of Anya Taylor-Joy was exciting. It ended up being a great watch, and we recommend the movie to anyone who enjoys a good comedic thriller.