Sperm, vomit, blood and a critique of middle-aged masculinity, you can’t accuse The Cannibal Club of a lack of originality.
It’s a musical, no of course it isn’t, it’s a horror film but one that’s careful about the way it doles out the bloodshed. As the curtain rises, trophy wife Gilda (Ana Luisa Rios) is lying languidly on a sunlounger by a pool being eyed by the guy who cleans the pool. Meanwhile, her husband (Tavinho Teixeira) is preparing Gilda’s lunch, a plate of steak so bloody that it’s almost raw. Wink, wink.
The pool guy is actually a lusty young man at the peak of his sexual powers, something we get to witness scant minutes later as he services the wife long and hard, while the peeping husband, unseen, masturbates to climax before himself servicing the poolboy with a big axe through the head.
Blood is everywhere, and even more of it once the duo, naked, start dismembering the body.
This orgy of bloodletting over, The Cannibal Club settles down to tell an only slightly less gruesome story. This couple are part of Brazil’s elite and lead a life of exquisite ennui. He runs a security outfit but is so bored with the day to day that in one emblematic scene he can barely engage with two guys who are pitching new business.
To add some spice to an otherwise flatlining life he attends meetings of the Cannibal Club, a group of middle aged men who gather regularly to watch sex followed by death followed by dinner – freshly barbecued meat, provenance assured.
She, well, she does nothing, to his great irritation, apart from attend parties with her husband. It’s at one of these parties that she sees something so shocking – yes, even more shocking than people being killed in cold blood – that to have witnessed it can only put her and her husband in danger.
Though it pretends otherwise, somewhere around this point The Cannibal Club shifts from being a horror movie into something closer to a home invasion thriller. As Gilda and Otavio wait for the inevitable attempts on their lives in order to secure their silence, they hire a new caretaker (Zé Maria), who will prove decisive as act two gives way to the action-filled act three.
Like a meal served up at the proper intervals, The Cannibal Club gives us gore for starters, main course and dessert, but in between it’s hellishly interested in the stuff middle-aged men do… or don’t do. Otavio has had his prostate removed, for example, and penetrative sex appears to be a thing of the past. He fusses around with one of those nose-hair gadgets while getting ready to go out. His peers spend their whole time bragging emptily about what they’re going to do when their wives are out of town. They ogle the behinds of unattainable young women. And they’re homophobic like you wouldn’t believe.
Protesting too much, all of them. The elite is effete is the political message if you’re looking for one, these cannibals standing in relation to wider society in much the same way that Dracula often does – as a drain on vital, youthful energy.
It’s all done with the lightest of tongues in cheek, almost-earnestly, with a luxuriously sophisticated soundtrack helping to lift the whole thing a couple of notches.
Don’t be too overwhelmed by that, though. For all that superficial layer of gloss, this is a “midnight movie”, best watched with a boozy, rowdy crowd whooping at the nudity, laughing at the gore and shouting “he’s behind you” as one more character is lined up for the chop.
The Cannibal Club – Watch it/buy it at Amazon
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© Steve Morrissey 2020