‘The Menu’ Continues the Tradition of Food in Horror Films

As the camera spins into a steel blue dining room, a small circle of Tech Brothers, celebrities, political power brokers and food obsessives march to their tables in the back of a kitchen, where equally uniformed chefs can be seen. A team is operating with near-military accuracy. Diners take their seats as nitrogen gas is used to turn the milk into “snow”, and small half-balls of pickled cucumber melon are carefully plowed onto a slab of black stone with a pair of tweezers. Is. Photos are prohibited, as the chef believes “the beauty of his creations lies in their ephemeral nature.” When the cook finally enters the room, the energy is completely transformed as those cucumber dots and milk ice come together to make an entertaining-bouquet. Dinner is served, and at the highly specialized Hawthorne, it’s a terrifying prospect.

The restaurant in the center of Hawthorne menu, one of Fall’s most anticipated horror films, is set to hit theaters on November 17. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy and John Leguizamo, it follows a group of people as they travel to a secluded island for scarce food. As we learn in the opening seconds of the trailer, dinner at Hawthorne costs $1,250 per person, and its nightly service in space only seats 12 people. It is known for its envelope-pushing Modernist cuisine, which includes various gels and foams and fermentations, and its minimalist, slightly industrial interior aesthetic recalls real-life temples to Modernist cuisine such as geranium and noma. Fiennes calms her kitchen with terrifying precision, the sudden clapping of her hand serving as both a startle and a signal that the next course is about to come.

As you might expect, these guests are treated to a whole lot worse than just a fancy meal as they attempt to “play the game” or figure out the theme of the dinner—which it does. doing out. night alive. Directed by Mark Mylod, menu Blends verbal criticism of capitalism, the modern restaurant industry and the forces that drive it, and unbridled terror, all while interrogating some of the most basic of human fears. In the end, the film asks a pretty terrifying question: What if, when you went out to this insanely expensive dinner, your most vulnerable insecurities, and maybe even your actual body, were on the menu?

Director Luca Guadagnino also expected to release in November Bones and All, in which Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell play a young couple traveling across America who find themselves in the midst of a passionate love affair fueled by their strong desire to eat other people. The film has been described as a “cannibalistic love story”, and its teaser trailer includes familiar horror movie tropes, including blood-soaked screams and shots of people walking by an off-camera menace, presumably our two young lovebirds. Are included. With stars like Taylor-Joy, Fiennes, and Chalamet, these two films represent a new peak in the decades-old horror attempt to use food to scare audiences.

in the film of 1931 DraculaIn Bram Stoker’s most iconic work, the vampire feasts on the blood of his victims. One of horror’s most common bad guys, the zombie, eats brains, as does Hannibal Lecter, a sociopathic cannibal. lamb-like silence, It makes sense that movies that try to scare and intimidate us, jump scares and induce alarm, would be the most basic of human fears (to be murdered, to be eaten). But horror is also notorious for haunting us while digging into our insecurities: In film, perhaps no genre is more preoccupied with forcing us to confront social taboos and explore the arbitrary nature of social norms than horror. Not there.

So it’s no surprise that menu, one of the best restaurants in the world serves as the setting for panic. The real-life horrors of working in a fine dining kitchen, which range from horrific physical injuries to sexual assault to psychological abuse, are well documented and explored in excruciating detail throughout the film. For diners, these highly specific places come with their own set of internal rules and behaviors that even the most socially skilled – and wealthy – among us feel uncomfortable with.

Adam Lowenstein, professor of English and film, says, “Food really puts us on the spot in terms of performing for those around us, or at least what we think about, based on how and what we eat.” But let us judge.” study at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Horror film and otherness, “I think it’s a very universal phobia, which works in many different contexts.”

Lowenstein points to a long-standing tradition of exploring questions of class, privilege and consumption in horror films. In films like George Romero’s legendary zombie flick morning of the dead, Murray’s indiscriminate, violent brain-food is tied to American culture’s obsession with mass consumption, no matter the human cost. According to Lowenstein, Romero also adapted philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s famous quote about eating the rich into the film’s logline: “When people have nothing else to eat, they will eat the rich”. When there is no other place in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”

“Food is so fundamental to human experience and survival that when food is unequally distributed, you start to arrive at really core issues about society,” says Lowenstein. “I think horror is pretty much attuned, and if humans can’t figure out how to be fair to each other, then horror will try to equalize that dynamic, and it’s not going to happen in ways that are beautiful.” and easily digestible.” Eating out is mandatory, but getting on an airplane, then spending thousands of dollars at a restaurant to get on a boat—such as menu – is an extreme extravaganza, a ripe one for this kind of criticism.

Real depiction of a shadow of a woman holding a silver plate, over which a woman's head and her brain are visible.

Beyond the subtext, however, it is objectively true that the act of eating is, in many ways, downright terrifying. As we eat, we literally slice the animal flesh away from the bone with a knife, then tear it apart with our teeth. We happily pluck oysters, octopuses and sea urchins from the sea and eat them alive, paying a good price for the privilege. We feast on the bizarrely flattened liver of force-fed geese. (Vegetarians are of course excluded, but thousands of cases of foodborne illness have been linked to contamination with bacteria found in fecal matter.) “Horror is a very gut style, and sometimes it’s literally There is gut — blood, guts, intestines,” he says. “But it’s always looking for an early engagement and confrontation with the audience, and eating has proven to be a very effective way of doing that. It is wrapped up in the core identity of the genre.”

Often, that means watching characters on-screen eat things that our culture has collectively decided are unacceptable: blood, human flesh, vomit, and feces. In the 2002 French art horror film in my skinThe protagonist, Esther, a successful career woman, attends a glamorous dinner with her boss and an important client, and begins to think that her hand has been severed from her body. To prove it isn’t, she secretly sticks a thorn in the limb, and — spoiler alert — literally eats herself alive in an attempt to find some kind of emotional fulfillment. Bones and All, based on the novel by Camille DeAngelis, takes a decidedly different tack. In this quest for raw sexuality and power, the protagonist Maren Yearley, portrayed by Taylor Russell, is a young woman who turns her forbidden consumption desires outwards, eating the flesh of those she loves.

In the folk-horror smashes of 2019 mid summer, director Ari Aster takes home the natural horror of the film’s pagan cult when he persuades a character to inadvertently drink menstrual blood and eat pubic hair in a stomach-churning love spell. According to Astor, the imagery of these scenes is actually rooted in his research of Scandinavian history and folklore, and that is partly what makes them so terrifying. Accidentally consuming someone else’s bodily fluids can happen to you in real life. And no matter what you think is your own deepest, deepest fear, almost none of us want to be forced to eat something — or cheated on — that we find counterproductive. Outside of the immediate disgust generated by consuming something as taboo as a human brain or menstrual blood, there’s something uniquely scary about being forced to swallow anything against your will: It’s your physical. There is a violation of autonomy, and it is an almost universal fear. Perhaps even worse is being killed, the ultimate revocation of a person’s agency.

As the genre continues to tackle social issues such as climate change and income inequality, the role of food in horror is as prominent as ever. 2022 David Cronenberg film future crimes focuses on a world in which humans are physically adapting to a not-so-distant postapocalyptic future in which the world is so polluted that their body parts actually evolved to eat toxic plastics and other poisons in order to survive. last years feast Takes a different step, using the context of a truly horrifying dinner party to explore the human impact on the natural environment. in the coming months, menu And Bones and All This will provide unique opportunities to think about how uniquely frightening food and food can be, it all depends on your own individual neurosis.

don camino Vaquero is a scene providing editorial illustration from Mexico City.
Copy edited by Leila Bernstein

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