Film Review: Josh's Review of THE CANNIBAL CLUB
Starring: Tavinho Teixeira, Ana Luiza Rios, Pedro Domingues.
Written & Directed by: Guto Parente.
To the unseen eye, the title of Cannibal Club is in actuality a little misleading. While there is indeed a club of wealthy members from the Brazilian elite who like to engage in homicidal voyeurism & cannibalism (that is, watching people get murdered and later eatting well-cooked pieces of their bodies), the film itself doesn't primarily focus on the ‘Cannibal Club’ per say. Instead, the focus is centered on a couple of the club’s key members, Otavio (played by Teixeira) and his wife, Gida (played by Rios).
As the story kicks commences, we learn that Otavio and Gida have a taste for human flesh - their preferred method of catching their victims, hiring a young man as a live-in grounds keeper. After a few days, Gida lures the new grounds-keeper into her clutches with the promise of having sex while Otavio is supposedly gone for a few days. As Gida engages in sex with the unsuspecting victim, Otavio comes in with an axe and kills her lover. Afterwards, the couple cuts up the body and feeds on their victim for several days.
As the movie progresses, we learn that cannibalism is the one thing that seems to be keeping their love and marriage afloat. When they are not eating people or putting on the façade of a happily married couple, Gida and Otavio are often squabbling. The reason? Otavio thinks that Gida no longer respects him since a prostrate operation has left him unable to have sex. Gida, on the other hand, feels like Otavio isn’t as much fun anymore and resents him for seemingly keeping her out of many things that the club does.
Things come to a head when Gida stumbles into Borges, the club’s leader and a leading Brazilian political figure, having sex with another man at a party. Gida makes a clumsy attempt to assure Borges that she will say nothing, but it quickly becomes obvious that Borges sees her and Otavio as a threat to himself.
On it’s face, Cannibal Club should be a thrilling horror film and there is a lot to be said for it. Parente makes terrific use of the bright, sunny, and affluent side of Brazil in a way that reminds one of Michael Mann’s cinematography style from the 1980’s when he made such shows and movies as Miami Vice and Manhunter. It’s a glaring, crisp style that shows the beauty of a place, but gives the viewer a feeling that something is not right with the world; in fact, it's almost as if one is having a pleasant dream that slowly turns into a nightmare. Rios, herself, steals the film by making Gida a very sexy monster and is none too subtle in how she uses her sexuality to get victims for herself and Otavio.
This lack of subtlety mentioned in the example above is an overall strength in this movie. While I often think a "less is more" approach to some forms of horror, in this case, the "more is more" approach works better. More specifically, it thrives on being confrontational and pushing the envelope on social norms. Thankfully, none of this takes away from Parente’s much more obvious message about classism - specifically, how the poor are severely exploited in society or how the income gap is so insurmountable in Brazil. For instance, during a party Gida and her friends complain about how third world their country is and how they enjoy visiting Europe. Gida and her friends never seem to grasp that the reason their country is in bad shape is because they are draining it of its wealth rather than sharing it and building their nation up. In this way, they are figuratively and literally consuming the land's wealth and its people.
Despite this insight, however, the film suffers from a lack of scope. By focusing solely on Otavio and Gida, there is very space to learn more about the rest of the club and the far-reaching implications of its existence. Additionally, in the same vein, more could have been done to sympathize & relate to the victims (i.e. seeing the victim’s families, showing us fliers that have been posted up of the missing people, etc.). Strangely, the film isn’t very long to begin with, so it could have benefited from further development of the issue discussed above.
All in all, Parente's The Cannibal Club is a tasty entree, but not very filling. Though a great deal of attention is paid to the film's horrific and sensuous elements, the lack of enthusiasm applied to its thin story prevent it from being a far superior film.
Overall grade: B-
The Cannibal Club releases in theaters on March 1st.