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‘The Menu’ Trailer Asks What If Fine Dining Was Really a Horror Movie

bon Appétit logo bon Appétit 8/15/2022 Nico Avalle
Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in the film THE MENU. © Photograph by Eric Zachanowich. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Ri... Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in the film THE MENU.

Our appetites might be shifting towards a new kind of food media—one that’s very dark and maybe a bit honest. Late 2021 gave us Boiling Point, a high stakes drama about the pressures of working in a professional kitchen. More recently, The Bear offered its audience a look at the chaotic, messy day-to-day of a struggling neighborhood sandwich joint, with a depiction of abuse and toxicity so accurate that many pro chefs struggled to get through the whole series. And now, a new trailer for The Menu, in theaters this November, takes this trend to its logical conclusion: outright horror.

The film will follow Nicholas Hoult opposite Anya Taylor-Joy—star of Netflix’s pandemic hit The Queen’s Gambit—as the pair experience a limited-seating tasting menu at an upper-crust restaurant on a small, secluded island. But rather than a space for delicious indulgence, The Menu will depict fine dining as the setting for an anxiety-inducing thriller, as guests are hunted and trapped by a murderous celebrity chef, played by Ralph Fiennes. It’s Jiro Dreams of Sushi—if Jiro also wanted to straight up murder his guests.

Although the film is obviously fiction, the trailer alone draws plenty of comparisons to worshipful food docs. There are Chef’s Table-esque macro shots of oysters, tweezer-constructed amuse bouches, and delicately piped sauces, all paired with a sinister, classical score, evoking a funhouse version of the food documentary series. The filmmakers went as far as hiring three-Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn as a consultant, hopefully beefing up the realism factor in its portrayal of la creme de la creme restaurants.

Hawthorne, The Menu’s central restaurant, appears reminiscent of farm-to-table restaurants like Blue Hill at Stone Barns (featured in the first season of Chef’s Table). Hawthorne staff appear to grow, harvest, and prepare all of the food they serve on the restaurant’s grounds where they all live as a “family.” And sure, these sorts of sustainable practices sound great in a food doc, but they’re equally at home in a death cult investigation like Wild Wild Country. The Menu staff bark “Yes chef!”—the runaway catchphrase of The Bear, I might add—with a coordination that goes past respectful, well into creepy devotion, as if to say: This world can be culty, it can be sinister, it can be flat out terrifying.

While it’s hard to tell if The Menu’s kitchen staff is truly cannibalistic—a chef does appear to cut off a patron’s finger in the trailer—the tone screams “eat the rich” throughout. This is no surprise from director Mark Mylod, an executive producer on HBO’s Succession, whose work is clearly anxious about the absurdity of a world where some have private jets while others have no private jets. If shows like The Bear exposed the trauma that kitchen staff endure for their guests, maybe The Menu will offer a colder solution for embittered line cooks and fed up service staff. Why spit in someone’s stew when you could spit on their grave instead?

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