The Cannibal Club (2018)
Director/Writer – Guto Parente
Runtime – 81 minutes
(Trailer courtesy of smartcine.com)
When asked to review a film with ‘Cannibal’ in its title, I’ll admit I jumped at the chance. When I realized said film had subtitles, I became even more exited. Suffice to say The Cannibal Club jumped to the head of a long line of features demanding my attentions.
Set in, produced and created in, Brazil, The Cannibal Club tells the tale of a wealthy, elite pair with an appetite that far surpass a visit to the local delicatessen (ironically the synopsis reads much like a feature of the same name, from many years ago, from France), the meat departments of Costco and Sam’s Club combined. To make matters even more exciting the husband belongs to a club which partakes in much the same thing but on a grander scale, think a Snuff/Sex Club with “appetizers”.
The film opens with a Miami Vice–esque pumpin’ jazz soundtrack (does jazz pump, or even rock? Perhaps jive is a better term?) and quickly introduces the viewer to the opulence on offer and the lifestyle to which the films two main stars are accustomed. A mansion in the hills, far from the hustle and bustle of the mean streets, and a bevy of hired help to ensure the occupants have nothing to do but eat, shit, fuck (please excuse my French) and bathe in their amassed wealth.
The madam of the house, Gilda, portrayed brilliantly by Ana Luiza Rios, teases the help. But it doesn’t stop there. She has appetites of her own. An early scene showcases her feeding these same insatiable needs. With a twist. Obvious even thus far in is that this film doesn’t skimp on a nature which could be called unflinching and graphic, both in terms of displaying unbridled acts of lust (there’s plenty of skin, full frontal shots and sweaty, gyrating, asses on display) and brutality. For fear of spoiling things (though I fear I need to, at least in this scene, to set the stage). This initial scene ends with a fellow getting a hatchet buried between his shoulder blades. Worse of all, however, is the fact that he gets interrupted before his “money shot”, or climax for all those not accustomed to adult film lingo. Even this far in the viewer is subjected to glorious (what, I’m a fan of nekkidness) full frontal shots aplenty, expert usage of a chainsaw and enough crimson to sate most gorehound’s tastes.
The film continues and within no time whatsoever the viewer develops a sense of these bastards really don’t care about anything but their desire, personal livelihood and appetites. A fact that’s added to with Octavio’s treatment of his hired help. He’s intolerant, whereas his wife is a little more relaxed (I wonder why!?) and likes to utilize humor to get his point across but there’s no doubt he’s deadly serious.
Octavio (played convincingly by Tavinho Teixeira) and Gilda much like most married couples, have arguments. Some are silly based merely on how one phases a question whereas others are deep-seated in resentment. Gilda doesn’t like the fact that her husband attends Club events without her, “but, it’s the rules dear.” She remains curious as to their goings on. However, following a get-together drenched in a shared hatred of the lower classes and celebration of their class hierarchy, she stumbles across an event which changes everything and quickly loses interest altogether in her husband’s extracurricular activities. When confronting one of the participants, Borges (the kingpin of the whole operation), Gilda is shot down, and there’s no doubt as to who’s in charge and he isn’t in the mood for blackmail, be it implied or not
The situation develops when this same secret is divulged, and paranoia begins to reign supreme. Security is stepped up. Octavio’s humor becomes non-existent and dread envelopes his sleepless nights and the compound.
What happens next? I’m not going to spoil it, I pride myself on not doing so, though I will discuss what makes The Cannibal Club such an effective slice of cinema.
From the initial shot and the inclusion of a soundtrack which has a grand nature there’s no doubt that the filmmakers know exactly how to captivate its audience. The traditional style continues, classic minimalism, and a vibe settles over the film which is highly reminiscent of Pier Pablo Pasolini’s Salo (or 120 Days in Sodom) thankfully minus the feces feast, Marquis de Sade pantomime antics and mass abuse of a collective of youth, but rather the unmerciful dominance of those from the lower-class structures, the poor, of which Brazil is notorious for being awash in.
The Cannibal Club isn’t without its share of priceless moments. The Elite Club is a great addition to the story, recalling Brian Yuzna’s brilliant Society. But it’s a scene early on which showcases their power that stands out above all others. A stark scene awash in a graphic nature and brutality. Far from what one might expect, based on how the film has progressed, the filmmakers chose to shy away from depicting violence but instead chose to concentrate on the faces of those in attendance as if to lay a spotlight on who the real menace is here, naturally this scene makes me reflect on the conclusion and closing statements within Cannibal Holocaust but also upon stark scenes shown within David Cronenberg’s classic, though often underrated, Videodrome. Accompanying and introducing this scene is a rock/synth soundtrack plucked from the very depths of yesteryear ala’ Grindhouse/Giallo features from Italy circa the 1970 80’s. A fantastic addition which sets the scene and lets any long-time fan of the genre know immediately that something untoward is seriously about to go down.
The brilliance of the soundtrack, courtesy of Fernando Catatau, continues to inspire and effectively invoke feelings of dread. In later scenes a minimalist, suffocating, unrelenting, score transforms into a doom-laden piano affair to intensify a mood which already overflows with tension and suspense.
Powerful performances aid and fuel this film. One role is that of Borges, portrayed exquisitely by Pedro Domingues, a performance which also puts me in mind of characters/roles plucked from Salo. His is a performance which exemplifies the feel of the elite (in this film) and their disdain for those beneath their status. His lofty perch also enables him to pick and choose the predicaments of those around him based on nothing more than suspicion, or feelings at the time. He gives a grand dinner speech which is inciteful, reminiscent of everyone’s favorite dictator and one that’s sure to raise a few eyebrows and spark instant loathing for his character.
The Cannibal Club boasts undeniable style, smatterings of dark humor and roles which are easy to relate to even though their status and lifestyle may be foreign to most of us. The pacing of the film is superb, it doesn’t take long for the viewer to become entranced, horrified and oddly intrigued. Performances are top notch and the story is strangely one that which could very well be closer to the truth than many of us would like to admit, think upon or even believe. An element which tops the viewing experience off however, is a scene in the credits, a few moments, which showcases an example of when one, a hardworking, struggling individual in this instance, just can’t ‘get a break’.
In conclusion, The Cannibal Club is worth its weight in prime cuts (see what I did there?) In essence it’s a carefully constructed tale, expertly executed, slathered in social commentary which isn’t afraid to offer its audience images that will shock and titillate whilst leaving them with thoughts they’d rather not dwell upon.
I’m expecting to hear a great deal of buzz about this in the very near future and quite honestly, it’s deserved of such. To be blunt The Cannibal Club is a remarkable feat of film-making worthy of praise and recommendation. Keep an eye out for this.
In theatres March 1st and On Demand March 5th.
(Review originally written for and posted to CultMetalFlix)
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