Review: ‘The Menu’ Serves Up Horror with a Twist


Photo courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes.

The Menu was one of the most shockingly brilliant horror films I’ve ever seen, making it my second favorite movie of 2022.

As much as I appreciate a good slasher like Friday the 13th or Saw, The Menu was not as rudimentary as I expected. I went into it expecting a Fresh rip-off, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The Menu stars Anya Taylor-Joy, an actress who made her claim to fame with The Witch in 2015 and has hit it big ever since. Her bold personality was perfect for this film, and I found myself rooting for her once again.

Ralph Fiennes was also perfect for the role of the Chef, and his performance left me feeling uneasy. Nicholas Hoult has been off my radar since I saw Skins, but to be honest he was the main reason why I wanted to see The Menu so badly. Nicholas is perfect for playing an entitled snob, and I was able to draw many connections between Tyler and Tony.

The Menu tells the story of young Margot Mills, who is on a date with the wealthy chef wanna-be Tyler. Margot and Tyler join a boat with an array of other people and head to a secluded island for a private dining experience. Upon Margot’s appearance, the kitchen staff is rather bothered that Tyler changed his date, and it seems to have disrupted their plans.

The head Chef welcomes the guests and begins the evening with this note, “Do not eat. Taste. Savor. Relish. Consider every morsel that you place inside your mouth. Be mindful. But do not eat. Our menu is too precious for that.” Although his words may seem contradictory since they are being served a meal and told not to eat, as the movie goes on, these words make more and more sense.

Do not eat. Taste. Savor. Relish. Consider every morsel that you place inside your mouth. Be mindful. But do not eat. Our menu is too precious for that.

Throughout the night, the guests will experience the Menu and all its greatness. They are served six courses for the evening, each of which becomes increasingly more jarring. They start the night by eating an entire ecosystem, called The Island, which is a metaphor for humanity’s never-ending hunger, or greed.

The next course consisted of a Breadless Bread Plate, which confused me just as much as it did the guests. What the Chef was trying to get at was that the guests were too rich to eat a substance as tribunal as bread, but the concept of a Breadless Bread Plate just seemed absurd.

For the next course: tacos. Tyler’s tortilla contains images of him taking pictures of the food that they were explicitly told not to photograph. Several guests’ tacos contain illegal bank statements from their company, and one taco reveals that a woman’s husband has been cheating on her. As one might imagine, the guests are not happy that their misconduct has been revealed, but things are now clear that each guest is there for a reason, and that the Chef will be the judge of it all.

The Mess: the fourth course on the Menu left me in shock. In a sudden turn of events, the sous chef shoots himself in the face and is wrapped up and taken away in a tablecloth. At this point, the guests have realized that this is not the night they were expecting. I expected them to try and escape, or to try and phone for help. But their reaction is even worse! The food critic Lilian assures everyone that it is just a part of the experience and that the sous chef is probably okay (he’s not)! Her blindness shows what kind of person she is. Who watches someone blow their brains out and calmly awaits the next dish?

This course stuck with me the most because it truly speaks on humanity’s ignorance. As humans, we watch horrific acts around the world every day, and we continue with our lives as if nothing happened. The only one who realizes what is going to happen is Margot, who asks the Chef if there’s a chance she will survive the night. He tells her that everyone will die, including the kitchen staff.

Margot is then sent to retrieve a barrel from Chef’s cabin and stumbles upon his bedroom. It’s there that she sees a simple picture of him cooking a Cheeseburger, smiling gleefully. She looks around the room and notices that in his other photos as a master chef, his face is grim. At this moment, Margot finally realizes how she can live. Margot returns and tells the Chef she wants a cheeseburger. He looks at her hesitantly but then prepares for her what she wants.

Margot can see that life is better lived with happiness, not money. This message is a huge theme: although something may cost only ten dollars and take five minutes to make if it brings you the joy you should enjoy it! Life is not about eating at the fanciest restaurant or indulging in the most expensive meal, contrary to the beliefs of the restaurant guests. Although the cheeseburger took five minutes to make, and cost ten dollars, it brought her and the Chef more joy than thousands of dollars for some seafoam and scallops.

As she’s leaving, he prepares dessert for the remaining guests, wrapping them up in marshmallows and chocolate. He lights a match and the restaurant burns as Margot sails away on a boat.

The Menu is one of my favorite films of the year not only because of the amazing cinematography and unnerving music but because of the lesson that it teaches. Class is a major theme in this film, and the separation of the kitchen staff and the dinner guests becomes eminent when the Chef asked Margot to choose which side she was on. The staff lives to serve, the guests live to be served. But in the end, all of them die in the flames together.

This is truly the heart of The Menu, that although class separates them in life, they are together in death.