Review: CANNIBAL CLUB Skewers Brazil’s Rich, Comments on Political Climate

Review: I’ve got a habit of looking for some sort of larger commentary in horror films. I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a bad habit; as a grad student I’ve been all but trained into doing so for every film I watch. Cannibal films have always been a great subject for analysis for me. There’s always some message about poverty, power, and what implications eating people really holds. Whether it’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or, more recently, We Are What We Are, there’s always some clever commentary that I find fascinating. Brazilian director Guto Parente’s film Cannibal Club is no exception to that rule.

The horror comedy is a subdued yet scathing critique of Brazil’s current political and socio-economic climate. Otavio (Tavinho Teixeira) and his wife, Gilda (Ana Luisa Rios), are two wealthy Brazilians who reside in a lavish seaside home. Their favorite pastime involves hiring poor men as the help, dispatching them in a sexually charge manner, and eating them for dinner. Otavio is a member of the titular club and, at a lavish soiree, his wife witnesses an event that could have the two of them killed. In the meantime, Otavio and Gilda hire a new man as paid help, Jonas. He gets caught in the crossfire when the film’s violent threats come to a head.

I’m a sucker for reading into films’ subtext, but this film is pretty overt in what it’s trying to say. Instead of some backwoods family eating a group of city slickers, the wealthy members of the Cannibal Club indulge their sexual and cannibalistic fantasies at opulent parties. It’s awfully reminiscent of Brian Yuzna’s Society, where the rich are literally feeding on the poor. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though. The political commentary seems especially relevant, considering Jair Bolsonaro’s recent election as President of Brazil. The partygoers’ gripes about living among poor people and wishing the poor who make a living squeegeeing car windshields would drop dead leaves no room for much abstract interpretation.

Cannibal Club is skewering the rich. Mmm. Shish kebabs. While the film is deliberate, I don’t think it’s too heavy-handed. This film does a great job of biding its time, allowing the narrative tension to build. It’s simply a very jaded look into wealth. The two leads are fantastic. Their dynamic fluctuates between being equally passionate as well as detached from one another. The end was satisfying as well. Overall, Cannibal Club is a smart film that’s deliberate yet understated. Cannibal Club is now available on demand.