THE CANNIBAL CLUB
Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Uncork’d Entertainment for sending me an online screener of Guto Parente’s Brazilian made Horror/Comedy film, “The Cannibal Club”. The Cannibal Club is a dark and perverse exploration into the elitist world of wealthy married couple Otavio and Gilda (played by Tavinho Teixeira and Ana Luiza Rios). Otavio owns a private security company and spends his leisure time with Cannibal Club members, mingling at parties, or dining on whoever happens to be his and Gilda’s latest caretaker. One night, Gilda discovers something about Borges (Pedro Domingues), the club leader, that puts her and Otavio’s life of comfort in jeopardy. The film also stars Ze Maria, Rodrigo Capistrano, and Lc Galetto.
I saw the sunny poster art and the contradictory trailer for The Cannibal Club a while back and I thought it looked quite interesting. I’m always keen to step outside the conventional avenues and check out more foreign material. So, The Cannibal Club – well… it’s all in the title really (or so you would think). There have been a number of films depicting themes or scenes of cannibalism, from a gritty exploitative venture like “Cannibal Holocaust” or “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, through to the more polished foreign films like “I Saw The Devil” and “Raw” (just to name a couple). This time around though it’s the upper crust committing consumption, and there’s something truly disturbing about witnessing the self-serving, holier-than-thou march to the beat of your own drum types partaking and reveling in the slaying of others. Let’s be honest, Is anyone really surprised when the backwoods hillbilly inbred starts chowing down on part of a fleshy human thigh? No, you’re not, and you know why? Because you’ve had time to prepare yourself for it, you even expect it, and although you don’t want to judge a book by its discolored cover, deep down you know its damaged goods. Here, Otavio and Gilda live a life of luxury, and they certainly look the part, so who would suspect them of such wickedness?
The couples villa and beachfront paradise make for a nice location, even if it isn’t taken full advantage of coverage wise. Lucas Barbi’s cinematography is steady and stylish, everything nicely framed and all the two shots are slickly presented. Composer, Fernando Catatau is a relative newcomer (to film) but brings about an eclectic group of themes to The Cannibal Club. It’s a jazz/blues orientated score with french horn taking front and center for a bulk of the runtime. There are frantic moments of eerie keys during the third act and some interesting fusion drum and synth that fits a sort of live show scene. The film is well acted, and plenty of credit should go to both Tavinho and Ana for baring all and putting themselves out there for a couple of unnecessarily graphic and crude scenes. Being a foreign film, it should come as no surprise that the multiple sex scenes are graphic and portrayed realistically (although I don’t think the shock value money shot was needed). It doesn’t take long for The Cannibal Club to serve up its entrée, doing so in the form of a sexually charged kill mid-thrust, followed by a disturbingly real dismemberment (shown from a distance but still bold). The practical blood and gore fx are impressive although they could be considered scarce given the title of the film. The climax (not that kind…) lacked clarity in terms of its specifics but it was still enjoyable, and in a way probably fitting.
The Cannibal Club is only 80 minutes long (including credits) but the pacing still feels a bit off, no doubt magnified by the spates of downtime in the middle act. The lengthy exchange between Gilda and Borges in his office, regarding the fallout of events from the party, could’ve been halved and still sufficiently summarised. I thought the vocal performance at the party was quite weak and even a little flat in places and the music could be pulled back in the mix just a bit. Aside from a number of questions I was left with about the club and its overall purpose, Otavio’s meek, tepid water like persona rising to the surface early in proceedings proves to be contradictory to what we’ve previously witnessed, in turn, calling into question the validity of those initial convictions. Whereas at least Gilda has a backbone, a willingness to position the pieces on her board where they need be so she can maintain control. The film requires more of that take no prisoners alpha male presence and the violence that one would expect from these powerful people. I was left a little cold by the lack of exposition regarding the club too. Other than a thinly outlined mantra from Borges about wearing your stripes proudly, we learn absolutely nothing about this club, its culture or how it came to fruition. Couple that with the absence of any further violence (until the end) and you’ve got somewhat of an unfulfilling end result. There are several mentions of a character named Clovis (Capistrano) and some sort of betrayal of the club although I don’t recall seeing anything of note (perhaps upon a second viewing I’ll get whatever was missed). The reasons for the implode don’t make a whole lot of sense either. Gilda’s reaction to what she witnesses doesn’t scream of concern, more of disappointment. Which begs the question as to why it bothered her enough to schedule a meeting with Borges? If she didn’t raise it he may have never accosted her. It wasn’t as if he was a potential meal for her and Otavio to consume.
The Cannibal Club is a polished and competently made Horror/Comedy from a young Brazilian filmmaker in Parente. The sun-soaked imagery and darkly satirical vibe mixed the displeasure of cannibalism initially had me intrigued. The cinematography is high in production value, the score is a little different, and the performances are all solid. There is some impressive practical fx on display but the action isn’t as widespread as one might hope. On the downside, the pacing could have used some work, the score is too loud, and Otavio’s core characteristics negate the credibility behind his early actions. With little detail given about the club itself and Gilda’s peculiar approach to Borges personal life, things don’t quite come together as smoothly as they should. The Cannibal Club is quite entertaining but it simply doesn’t have a clear enough voice to get over the sounds of the crowd. You can check out the official trailer below and the film will be available in limited theatres March 1st and on VOD March 5th!
My rating for “The Cannibal Club” is 5/10