‘The Menu’: A Grotesquely Gorgeous Gastronomic Thriller


Chef Slowik oversees his sous-chefs (Courtesy of https://press.searchlightpictures.com/the-menu/)

By Audrey Hall, Arts Writer


This article contains spoilers for “The Menu.”


Prepare to be completely blown away by “The Menu,” a horror film centered around twelve guests who are invited to a remote island to dine at the prestigious Hawthorne restaurant. Executive Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) serves a 10-course meal that’s reminiscent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Between the intricate flavors and techniques, as well as the overarching determination to give his guests what’s coming to them, Chef Slowik’s menu is a poisonous love letter to his career, his sous-chefs and his food. There are spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk. 

The Amuse Bouche

From the moment the guests step onto the island, the tension is inevitable. Hong Chau, who plays staff member Elsa, does a phenomenal job of blurring the lines between a disciplined worker and a blind follower who belongs in the uncanny valley. Her line delivery is unnervingly nonchalant, especially when it shouldn’t be, and her constant all-knowing smile makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

The characterization of each diner is one of my favorite parts of the movie as a whole. Casting director Mary Vernieu made the ideal choices for each character, and didn’t worry about the importance of the actor’s name and reputation over their ability to play their part. While the cast isn’t made up of D-listers that no one has heard of, there is no quality sacrificed just to get a big name on screen.

The Main Course

The overall plot of “The Menu” is fascinating. As someone who is completely obsessed with cooking shows of all kinds, I was hooked by the first few courses and how they were introduced. Everything was shown as if it were something straight out of “Top Chef,” with title cards and ingredient lists. As the movie progresses and characters are killed off, the dishes become progressively more disturbing and the title cards stay the same, adding an almost comedic undertone to something that is legitimately terrifying.

In the dish “Memory,” the guests are served a fine-dining version of the traditional taco. However, the tortillas are toasted with a laser-engraver, depicting the sins each guest has committed. From adultery to tax fraud, each diner has a reason to be at Hawthorne, and it is not to dine. The tension mounts consistently from course to course, never letting up but never defaulting to a cheesy jumpscare to keep the audience’s attention.


The ending of “The Menu” left me debating with myself. When Margot (Anya Taylor Joy) was allowed to leave before Hawthorne was set aflame, I felt both relief and joy, as I had been expecting her to die with the others. I’m not usually one to enjoy a villain who stops their evil plan thanks to the main character reminding them of what’s important, but that wasn’t really what happened. Chef Slowik didn’t change his plan because he was brought to the good side, he let Margot leave because she wasn’t meant to be there in the first place, and he followed through with what he had planned from the beginning.

Overall, “The Menu” was a fantastic experience. It isn’t one that I would watch again unless I was with someone who hadn’t yet seen it. The unexpected turns are what really made the film excellent. With Oscar nominations being announced in the next few months, it will be interesting to see if “The Menu” makes the cut. 


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