by Geoffrey Churchman

It almost requires a new category to describe this: a fusion of parody, black humour and horror. The first two of these got my interest, a satire of the practitioners of haute cuisine who take what they do very seriously, and not only the high end restaurants, but the cooking shows on mainstream TV which have been dominant for the last 15 years or so.

The setting is an invitation by a top restauranteur to a group of 12 people to the culinary experience of a lifetime which is costing them $1250 each; all except one (a stand-in girlfriend) seem to have some connection with the restaurant industry themselves, mostly it seems as professional critics. The restaurant is on an island which requires transfer from the mainland by boat.

The satire isn’t confined to food; the waiters/waitresses make a point of over the top snobbery about the wine.

Each food course becomes increasingly weirder and darker. The chef (Chef Slowik played by Ralph Fiennes) upon his entrance is awkward and intense, someone who hints at having an agenda beyond the bill of fare. He runs the kitchen, visible to the guests, like an army commander and every announcement to both them and the guests is preceded by a loud clap. The first course is an amuse-bouche, not too far removed from what you might expect, but the second course is a “breadless bread plate” where the accompaniments but not the bread itself are what arrive.

It’s hard to describe the subsequent courses without spoilers, but near the end the non-professional guest, played by Anya-Taylor Joy criticises the Chef for creating art food with obsession but not love. She asks for a American icon, a cheeseburger instead — at a cost of $9.95 — which the Chef makes, and she likes.

A few elements of the storyline seemed rather gratuitously ‘in-your-face’ and could have been omitted, but that maybe is what American audiences expect.

Overall the script is original, inventive, generally works and the casting, acting, direction and cinematography are good.

The Menu (107 minutes) is screening at The Shoreline.