The Cannibal Club has a strong opening that blends convention and originality with something of a sinister smirk. Otavio (Tavinho Teixeira) and Gilda (Ana Luiza Rios) are a wealthy married couple in Brazil. Otavio owns a security firm and lives within a heavily fortified villa. The place is a stronghold with armed guards, heavy electronic doors, and loads of cameras. The couple has fit, male employees whom Gilda stares into with a predator’s need. Otavio asks his newest employee to watch the house while he’s gone, handing the man a gun and telling him not to shoot his wife. While he’s away, Gilda and the guard have sweaty, slapping sex on the master bed, the man on top as they lock eyes. Just as Gilda is in the throes of a climax, stomping feet hurry into the bedroom and the thick thunk of an axe blade bears through the guard’s skull, brain and blood spilling out of his twitching body as Gilda writhes on the bed with his blood dribbling over her. Downstairs a moment later, both husband and wife are naked as the husband slashes up the guard’s corpse into fine fillets. She asks if it was good for him. He grins, pulls her in, and says it was great. Then, still naked, they stand in the dark with only the fire from the burning remains illuminating their bodies.
Cue the jazz music.
The Cannibal Club
Director: Guto Parente
Release Date: March 1, 2019
This soundtrack is something special–an eclectic blend that melds free jazz with Scooby-Doo piano, horror synth with wavering Bollywood-style vocals. It sounds unusual and interesting compared to the common low brooding chords that accompany most modern horror films, and these strange melodies beautifully elevate and punctuate every visual flourish on the screen. A crowd of rich men in suits sit in plush bleachers overlooking a cement pit where a filthy couple make love in front of a camcorder. The men’s mouths alternate from grimaces to grins, all with eyes set hot enough to make wallpaper bubble. A heavy string bass thrums and a Halloween-soundtrack piano skitters around the scene. The already present tension builds as the camera lingers, and the score moves forward to a crescendo that breaks into wet bludgeonings and piercing screams which elicit some genuine chills. I would buy this soundtrack in a heartbeat if I could.
The whole of the sound design is fantastic, adding a presence and movement to off-screen actions that make them easy to visualize while driving their every puncture into your guts without the need to see every act of violence committed. This isn’t to say that you never witness the bloodshed. There’s plenty of gore and gross here with dribbling red meat and rotting carcasses on display. The effects work is well done with strong, dark blood and believable makeup work. Gunplay is shoddier but thankfully kept to a minimum. Maybe the action will be a bit too implied for everyone, but I didn’t mind the way my imagination played with the noises and found a refreshing rhythm to visuals and the audio.
Otavio and Gilda have a relationship that feels strained, desperate, and yet somehow romantic as they use their employees as meat in every sense. There’s this endless power struggle that has them pushing against each other. One scene sees a security guard arrive late, much to Otavio’s displeasure. The guard says he was late because he was looking for a place to eat, but everywhere was closed. This leads Gilda to invite the man to sit to their human-meat dinner while the husband pushes back. The guard, with his head bowed, just stands in place until he can finally run away. The way the couple look at each other afterward, though, you can’t tell if they’re angry with each other or if this is all some part of a rich person BDSM game they have. Either way they give a palpable impression that they do love each other, even if that love is based off dehumanization, manipulation, butchery, and wholesale murder.
Where The Cannibal Club loses itself, however, is in its plot. The film is lean and runs too fast, doing little more than following its story beats while grazing the surface of its poor-eating elite club. We see bits of the group’s bizarre parties and rituals, of one feast in which a bug-eyed sociopath spits and shouts about how the poor need to be crushed out of existence under their heels. We see Otavio and Gilda flip through an iPad gallery of half-naked men desperate for work at their villa. That’s about it, though, as The Cannibal Club gets too wrapped up in Gilda witnessing the sexual exploits of a powerful congressman who’s a member of the club and his move to murder them so no one else knows what she saw. There are too many mechanics that need bo explained, then, too many schemes and plans that need ironing out. It eats through about half the film, and it leaves you wondering what happened to the cannibals? There is still a class-conscience message that strings through The Cannibal Club, though, with the couple’s newest employee, Jonas (José Maria Alves) being used as pawn both to protect Otavio and Gilda from the congressman but also for their personal fetishes. If there’s one message The Cannibal Club has it’s “fuck the rich,” and I’m definitely down for that.
Maybe this can hit the zeitgeist just right and turn rich people into the new cultural monsters that moviegoers flock to see destroyed like hoards of zombies. Let’s bring back films like Society as reminders of who’s really feeding off and destroying the lives of normal people just trying to live regular lives. I think it could strike a nerve and lead to some huge hits–that would go on to make a ton of money for rich people that then allows the ouroboros to continue eating itself in this endless gluttony, only making the great wealth machine stronger until it’s consumed us all.
Hm. On second thought, maybe it’s best to keep movies like this in the indie scene, after all.