The word “cannibal” conjures up a few images for horror fans. They think of the savage Italian films of the 80s, where lost tribes greedily devour those who wander onto their sacred land. Transferred to the rural countryside, the same idea works. Inbred rednecks descend upon hapless families or airheaded college students. But there is a more refined version of cannibalism, best embodied by the character of Hannibal Lecter. Smart and erudite, this kind of carnivore seeks a different kind of meat than what can be found at the local grocery. In the dark Bazilian satire, The Cannibal Club, there’s more to the act of eating humans than meets the eye.
In Brazil, the class divide is deep and wide. Unemployment is rampant among the lower classes. The rich fear the poor and hire guards as extra protection. This makes Otavio (Tavinho Teixeira), who owns a private security company, one of the elite. He lives in a gated manse with his trophy wife, Gilda (Ana Luiza Rios). They hobnob with Borges (Pedro Domingues), a local congressman. Otavio, along with other men of the upper echelon, is a member of a secret society known as The Cannibal Club. It is precisely what it sounds like. Even though she’s not a member of the club, Gilda also has a taste for human flesh. It’s one of the few things she and Otavio bond over. Like most politicians, though, Borges has a secret besides cannibalism. When Gilda discovers it, she inadvertently places herself and her husband in danger.
The tale told by writer/director Guto Parente is a strong one. Why bother fighting the war on poverty when one can simply eat the poor? It’s a trap people keep falling into. They believe they’ve gotten a good job, working for rich people, so they can support themselves and their family. Then, they end up on the wrong end of a set of flatware. Some employers do treat their workers like cattle. The Cannibal Club takes that notion to its most extreme conclusion.
Graphic sex and violence are on full display here, but Parente keeps The Cannibal Club elegant. Camera movement is minimal, and scenes are allowed to play out from a reasonable distance in the center of the frame. This is not a hyperkinetic movie by any means. Parente’s keen composition and visual detachment allow The Cannibal Club to display elegance and clarity that is gorgeous to look at. Fernando Catatau’s score is by turns whimsical and ominous, perfectly illuminating the funny points of the film. This is a satirical movie, and the viewers recommend daily allowance of irony will be fulfilled by the time the credits roll.
The Cannibal Club is better than clever. It’s intelligent, wryly making fun of the wealthy while making sure not to propagate the myth that poverty infers otherworldly wisdom. The Cannibal Club offers gore, nudity, and an interesting story. It is always a joy to find those three things together in the same package. Beautiful to look at, and offering a few good laughs, The Cannibal Club is a bloody funny movie.
The Cannibal Club opens in select theaters and on demand March 1, 2019, from Uncork’d Entertainment.