The Cannibal Club (O clube dos canibais) is a very dark, violent and bloody comedy, a satire of Brazil’s ultra-decadent, ultra-wealthy from noteworthy up-and-comer Guto Parente. The film follows Otavio (Tavinho Teixeir) and Gilda (Ana Luiza Rios) who are a very wealthy couple of the Brazilian elite who seem to have it all: nice house, good looks and an interesting pastime of eating their employees. They have a system in place, with Gilda seducing the hapless male caretakers, before Otavio bursts in with an axe, chopping the poor men during sex. It’s all very messy, and the first murder takes place within the first ten minutes of the film, with blood spraying everywhere and full frontal nudity (both male and female) on full display. There’s no shying away here, the camera shows everything whether the viewer wants to see it or not.
Otavio owns a private security company and is a notable member of The Cannibal Club which is exclusively for wealthy males who despise the poor and celebrate all that is capitalism. Gilda is naturally annoyed that she is excluded from this club, but the couple’s problems become a lot more serious when Gilda accidentally discovers a secret from Borges, a powerful congressman and the Club’s leader. Suddenly her and her husband’s lives are thrown into peril. And perhaps, they might be the ones who end up on the menu.
Ana Luiza Rios and Tavinho Teixeira are delightfully depraved and demented as Gilda and Otavio, who inhabit a kind of golden bubble of prosperity in the northeastern city of Fortaleza on the Atlantic coast.. Teixeira’s Otavio is an especially memorable incarnation of pure evil, a loathsome creep whose sociopathic tendencies are exaggerated to a highly amusing degree. He seems to delight in cooking up steak (made of human flesh) and serving it up to his wife, with a smirk. Otavio gets off by watching his wife have sex with other men before he attacks the man with an axe, and yes we do see a little bit more than we would have liked to have seen. But Teixeira isn’t the only one who delivers a killer performance, Rios is great as a stuck up, trophy wife whose interests seem to be watching wildlife documentaries (lions attacking zebras) and getting drunk at parties. The supporting cast is strong as well, with Pedro Domingues really shining through as Borges, camping it up on-screen and delivering an epic monologue with his nostrils flaring (picture Martin Sheen in the Twilight saga, but less talk and more bite). It’s a shame that there isn’t more scenes with Domingues and Teixeria trying to outdo each other for who can act like the biggest asshole on-screen.
Director Guto Parente effortlessly switches from social comedy to tense thriller and back when necessary, and while The Cannibal Club has its moments of Grand Guignol horror, they never become its centrepiece. Aside from a few brief scenes of horror and violence, it never goes over the top, but when the act of violence is seen there is no hiding away. The real horror is in these people’s attitudes, and in one scene at a party Gilda discusses her dislike to be living in Brazil which she deems a ”third world country”. By using the act of cannibalism director Parente to underscore the comic disavowal of a political class which is unable to recognize even one ounce of its own hideousness. When Gilda tells Otavio about Borges, Otavio’s thinks they’re helpless. “We’re not murderers,” he laments. Killing Brazil’s blue-collar workers with an axe and then eating them doesn’t seem to count as a crime, which shows just how this pair considers the lives of the poor to have such little value.
Overall, The Cannibal Club suffers from a short runtime, with an abrupt ending that leaves the view unsatisfied and frustrated.. The film feels a little fragmented, with a weak middle, although there is plenty of action in the film’s beginning and ending, and it is worth noting that there’s another gore and violence to keep viewers entertained for 90 minutes. Some may find its subject matter, nudity and on-screen violence hard to swallow, although if you love satire and can stomach the gruesome scenes then The Cannibal Club might be to your tastes.