FilmFilm Review

Movie Review: Guto Parente’s Darkly Satirical ‘The Cannibal Club’

The Cannibal Club, Brazilian director/screenwriter Guto Parente’s darkly satirical comedy, paints a bloody portrait of the lifestyles of a group of well-to-do Brazilian elites who take the concept of “eating the poor” to its logical extreme.

Ana Luiza Rios and Tavinho Teixeira in The Cannibal Club.

Gilda (Ana Luiza Rios) and Otavio (Tavinho Teixeira) enjoy the high life in a gigantic mansion on the coast of Brazil. Octavio makes a good living running a private security firm that protects the citizens in the crime-ridden nearby city of Fortaleza — those who can afford his services, of course. He also enjoys the friendship of the powerful local congressman Borges (Pedro Domingues).

Their mansion is located on a sparkling private beach that seems millions of miles away from the riff raff. They employ impoverished locals as servants, alternately treating them like garbage and slaughtering them for their own amusement. This is one twisted couple.

Otavio also belongs to the elite Cannibal Club, whose membership consists solely of upper-crust men. They meet regularly to kill and eat hapless victims. They consider these people to be less than human. In their minds, they are the dregs of society, better off serving as food than continuing to take up space. The club is headed by Borges, who is fanatical in his quest to keep it a complete secret.

Borges tells Otavio that he suspects one of the club’s members to be disloyal and, just like that, he vanishes. Then, at an anniversary party, Gilda accidentally stumbles upon Borges doing something she shouldn’t have seen, and Otavio is terrified that their heads will be next on the chopping block.

Sprinkled with sequences of extreme gore and sex, The Cannibal Club sometimes feels like an art film co-created by John Waters and Herschell Gordon Lewis. However, instead of playing it all so broadly, Parente presents some of his most biting satire in a more subdued manner, which makes it all the more humorous.

For example, even though the amoral Gilda and Otavio have butchered plenty of lower-class victims, when faced with killing one of their class equals, Otavio exclaims, “But we’re not murderers!” And when a couple of men walk into a room where unseen assassins lay in wait, the door closes and sonic mayhem ensues — gunfire, shouts, groaning and scuffles.  It’s like something out of a Warner Bros. cartoon. You almost expect to see animated smoke billowing out from under the door.

The film is attractively lensed in widescreen by DP Lucas Barbi, whose camera isn’t afraid to linger over the more extreme visuals. The score by Fernando Catatau is appropriately bonkers, with styles ranging from sleazy jazz to carnival-style anthems.

Though it’s certainly not for all tastes, The Cannibal Club will be best appreciated by those who like their humor jet-black — with a side of fresh meat.

The Cannibal Club opens theatrically in select markets March 1, and nationally on VOD March 5.

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