[Review] The Cannibal Club/O Clube dos Canibais
The Cannibal Club begins with a sultry blues number, as we are introduced to a lavish, tropical paradise of a compound. It’s guarded by a man who sits in a foldout chair. A hunky pool boy/caretaker dutifully sweeps leaves out of the pool while a woman named Gilda (Anna Luiza Rios) lounges in the water, eying him from behind her dark sunglasses. At a stove, a man named Otavio (Tavinho Teixeira) prepares sumptuous-looking meat, grilled to perfection.
That night, Otavio wakes the caretaker and tells him that he’s going out of town and he needs the servant to protect his wife. After he leaves, we are treated to the pool boy having sex with Gilda…but Otavio didn’t leave; he’s watching them, while pleasuring himself (natch), from behind a two-way mirror. And at the moment of mutual climax, he charges in and takes an axe to the pool boy’s head.
It’s not often I start a movie and within the first ten minutes find myself sitting there, mouth agape. But here we are.
Turns out Otavio and Gilda are a pair of cannibals, who like to eat their staff. There’s a surreal scene after the murder above, where the two, still naked, are hacking apart the body and then preparing the night’s dinner with the remains. But they aren’t alone in their deviancy. Otavio belongs to a men-only club, where the richest and most affluent also dine on human flesh. The leader of the group is actually a congressman named Borges (Pedro Domingues) who employs Otavio’s security firm for his personal safety.
One night, at a party of incredible excess, a drunk Gilda stumbles into a warehouse where she sees Borges in a compromising position. And he knows she saw. They try to play it off, but the damage is done. And now Otavio think that Borges, who has a habit of offing people who could get in his way, will want to dine on the two of them.
Before you think this is a grim affair, I should tell you that it’s actually a satire and a comedy. Sure, there are sequences of Grand-Guignol gore and writer/director Guta Parente tends to mix the violence with graphic sexual trysts, but it isn’t quite a gorehound movie. It’s a sometimes savage satire about the rich of Brazil that could easily be translated to United States.
One major event in the film sees Otavio going to a black tie affair with Borges and the rest of his Cannibal Club, where they sit in a warehouse and watch two chained people has sex before a man wearing a mask that’d make Leatherface proud struts in with a nasty, blood-covered mace who slaughters them (off screen) before a smash cut brings us to a restaurant where they are serving up the two fornicators. Here, Borges talks about how they are “Distinctive men of the highest principles” and how the poor are trying to destroy them and everything they stand for.
The satire is not subtle, even when some of the comedic moments are more sly than you’d expect. In a humorous exchange, Otavio and Gilda bicker back and forth about how the other doesn’t have the empathy to put themselves in the others shoes. Meanwhile, the night before, they were calling poor people “squeegees” who they wish would all just die.
These rich people are so bored with their lives that bickering, partying and eating the poor are the only things they have to entertain themselves. Gilda picks out her workers as if she’s on Tinder, scrolling through photos upon photos of men in their underwear (okay, maybe it’s like Grindr), until she finds one that’s suitably handsome and strong for her amusement.
So, yes Guta Parente wields the satire like a hatchet, chopping away any and all subtleties. But there’s some delicious joy to be had in a movie of mostly antagonists, willfully and gleefully imploding. I wish there had been more of the gonzo horror elements that popped up once in awhile. The conclusion just sort of happens; there’s no real build up to it and the third act feels very perfunctory in its execution. But a couple moments had me shaking my head at the mix of carnal sex and carnivorous feeding that I think I can recommend this to those who want a little satire in with their gore.