Haute couture and cannibalism have been fitting cine-bedfellows since Anthony Hopkins cracked open the Chianti and fava beans back in 1989. After the more recent Raw resulted in mass festival walk-outs, Brazilian film-maker Guto Parente strives to follow suit by slapping sangrias at sun-kissed locales with axe thrashing, limb lopping and blood spitting/secreting. All by way of flesh mastication from the rich and supercilious. Otavia (Tavinho Teixeira) and Gilda (Ana Luiza Rios) are an affluent couple riding the life of Riley in a plush Brazilian beach home. But behind closed doors and phoney smiles, the pair are part of a cannibal club who meet to chow down on the remains of the hoodwinked poverty stricken, after hiring them as servants/sex slaves.
Aside from the complications that come with acquiring human flesh, there isn’t really anywhere for The Cannibal Club to go. Otavia and Gilda gazelle about protected and contemptuous in their protective currency bubble, indifferent to the hardships of those they mutilate and feast upon. This makes it impossible to relate to, or care about them as protagonists, despite being brilliantly brought to life by Tavinho Teixeira and Ana Luiza Rios. Curious supporting characters colour the backdrop then go some way to enriching Parente’s vibrant palette and willowy narrative, which is chocked with provocative sex and organ/limb chomping. Otavia’s boss, Borges (Pedro Domingues) is an unctuous tyrannical stooge who barks his discriminatory ethos aloud at public events and cannibal meets to tuxedo donned anthropophagi. He is also a great supporting character, along with security guard Lucivaldo (Galba Nogueira), who gets cajoled into a pointless subplot that does nothing but pass time.
A sultry jazz/sax score serenades shots of sunny Brazilian beaches, evoking 80s/90s erotic thrillers starring Richard Tyson (apparently), alongside the more respectable likes of Sexy Beast and Let The Corpses Tan. The Cannibal Club saunters in the final third following the introduction of Otavia and Gilda’s new caretaker Jonas, who marshals the story towards a suitably gruesome (but cop-out) conclusion, wrapping things up unimaginatively. Despite looking slick, chic and polished, The Cannibal Club lacks the substance/ thematic bite of Raw, the characters/ plotting of The Silence of the Lambs and the claret/ gregarious pomp of Cannibal Holocaust and features nothing to make it resonate as anything other than hollow, sun/ guts sopping carnage.
The 62nd BFI London Film Festival runs from 10 – 21 October. Tickets available now from www.bfi.org.uk/lff