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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

‘The Menu’ Is Hard to Swallow. You’ll Enjoy Every Bite. 


(Photo from IMDB)

This review contains spoilers. 

One film that appeared to slip through the cracks of public recognition is the 2022 drama film “The Menu.” It stars an A-list cast, including Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, and Ralph Fiennes. Yet this factor, along with the film’s high budget and meticulous directing by Mark Mylod, surprisingly did not carry weight during its initial introduction and rapid exit from theaters.  

Before the film’s release, controversy sparked due to a vague trailer and bland poster, which showcased a basic lineup of the film’s numerous actors. Disappointingly, most of these figures were out of focus and barely looked at the camera. 

Despite the poster’s dullness, it actually provides the perfect poster visual for the grand themes of “The Menu.” However, this fact could only be understood by a person willing to take the plunge and see the film for themselves. After viewing the ominous implications of the trailer, including cannibalism, and witnessing such a simple poster design, many people were unwilling to experience this experimental horror movie. 

However, these individuals failed to question whether this was the film’s test all along. Underneath the mask of an apparent brutal horror film lies a uniquely sardonic dark comedy that works as a social commentary as much as it does a brilliant thriller. Mylod knows that the film’s concepts are unusually bold in the world of modern-day cinema; he refuses to fight for attention, instead leaving the door open for anyone eager to see what’s inside. 

“The Menu” follows a group of wealthy individuals who are caught up in an unconventional night when booking their reservation at the exclusive restaurant Hawthorn. Operated on a private island by renowned celebrity chef Julian Slowik, Hawthorn is known for its unusual dish presentation and expert staff. This makes it the perfect opportunity for an affluent citizen to waste their money and enjoy the incomprehensibly chichi concepts that Hawthorn presents, specifically tailored for every guest. 

However, this typical reservation is only a veil for sinister plans meant for the film’s main characters, with every character having a reason for being welcomed on the special night. “The Menu” uses entrancing musical themes and a distinctive set to mimic an authentic restaurant experience. Uniquely, the film’s acts are spread throughout meal courses; this sets the stage for witty writing that evokes anxiety, dread, and terror for its 106-minute runtime.  

No detail is left unfinished, with an uncanny mixture of precise camera direction, claustrophobic background conversations, and a spine-chilling soundtrack by saxophonist, multireedist, and composer Colin Stetson subtly playing in the background. “The Menu” constantly keeps the audience riddled with goosebumps as they try to piece together the true meaning of this special night. Simultaneously, the pompous personalities of the film suffer an untimely fate.  

Some may perceive “The Menu” as more of a harsh — but slow — social analysis that is too smart for its own good due to its lightning-fast repartée and easily-missed context. However, the clever ideas within the film constructed by writers Will Tracy and Seth Reiss constantly keep viewers on their toes. Regardless, you may end up missing its objective by the time the film reaches its hard-hitting finale.  

“The Menu” acknowledges its unconventional direction and is comfortable with keeping its audience in the dark; it also creates a stress-inducing buildup for the sake of payoff. Additionally, it contains baffling moments which could be unrelatable to viewers who do not possess an understanding of the issues that “The Menu” sets out to tackle.  

This can potentially cause the audience to feel perplexed by the ending and the core themes of the film if not provided a deeper analysis by the director. The film’s novel approach to dialogue and scene unfolding, however, allows for multiple rewatches with the desire to find more hidden clues within the film. I look forward to having a fresh experience every time, regardless of whether I return for the thrilling horror experience or the film’s cheeky and sharp-witted dialogue.  

“The Menu” works best with a blind viewing, in order to allow the viewer to see every layer of its mysterious plotline removed like an onion’s infinite concentric skins. Regardless of whether you understood it all in the first go, are still trying to gain more understanding during a second watch, or are simply having a fun time watching the chaotic plotline unfold for the third time, it’s an exhilarating ride. 

I found “The Menu” a breath of fresh air for filmmaking, as it allows space for its cast and crew to unveil an intimately unusual experience. In its own unrepeatable and demented way, the film shows love and appreciation for those whom some might consider the ‘background characters’ of our daily lives.  

This is an exceptional film that calmly awaits anyone interested in taking a bite, lucky enough to see its greatness. I give “The Menu” five out of five crabs. 

5/5 Crabs 

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Najee Manning, Senior Staff Writer
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