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Film / The Menu

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"You will eat less than you desire and more than you deserve."

The Menu is a 2022 Psychological Thriller/Black Comedy film directed by Mark Mylod (Ali G Indahouse, Succession) and produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. It stars Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Judith Light, and John Leguizamo.

The film follows Margot (Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Hoult), a young couple traveling to a remote island to dine at Hawthorn, an exclusive restaurant with a menu specially curated by its enigmatic head chef, Julian Slowik (Fiennes). Naturally, all is not as it seems, as it soon becomes apparent that each guest has been carefully selected to witness Slowik and his team of cooks put together what will be their final menu.

The Menu released in theaters November 18th, 2022.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer, Clip 1

Tonight's menu offers the following tropes:

  • All Part of the Show:
    • After Jeremy shoots himself, Lillian insists that it's just theatre and not real. She continues to cling to that belief after Richard's finger is cut off, but she's soon forced to accept that Julian really is going to kill them all.
    • Later inverted when a member of the Coast Guard arrives on the scene to rescue the surviving guests...only for it to turn out that he's one of Julian's cooks, and that he was just playing a part. The guests really think that they're being rescued.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • While Julian's explanation for why he wants to punish and kill the Hawthorn guests is fairly clear, the film leaves a number of loose threads regarding whether there was a specific event (or events) that pushed him over the edge and convinced his kitchen staff to go along with it. Katherine's description of Julian sexually harassing her, her claiming credit for the idea to kill everyone, and the picture of Julian's family in his sparse office all imply that something may have happened in the chef's personal life and/or that he is serving as something of a figurehead, but neither idea is further explored.
    • Chef Slowik tells Margot to fetch a barrel of an ingredient for the final course, saying that Elsa forgot to assign someone to do that. Elsa, fearful that he's trying to replace her with Margot, attacks her with a knife in Slowik's house, insisting to her last breath that she wasn't told about the barrel to begin with. It's unclear who is telling the truth.
    • Margot asks Elsa about what is behind a silver door in Hawthorn near the bathroom and is ominously told that it holds something "special". While Margot opens the replica of the door in Julian's home copy of the restaurant (it leads to his personal office), we never see what's behind the "real" door. This may be an invokedOrphaned Reference to the original script's ending (see the Trivia page).
  • Arc Words: "You shouldn't be here" from several members of the staff, including Chef Slowik himself, to Margot. At first, it implies that, because she's Tyler's replacement date, they were expecting the woman on the actual reservation, especially since she knows nothing about molecular gastronomy. It's soon revealed that Margot has her own secrets, including relationships with the other diners, which make her a lot more similar to the staff of Hawthorn.
  • Asshole Victim: The diners at Hawthorn are all wealthy and entitled people. Except Margot, a working-class escort whose worst sin is a few snide comments here and there.
  • Ate His Gun: Jeremy does so to begin "The Mess", representing the moment the dinner goes from somewhat awkward theater to pure chaos. The staff even prepared for the bloody mess left behind by the suicide method by pulling out a plastic sheet at the exact moment of the shot to shield the kitchen.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: While there are a few hiccups here and there, Slowik's plan to kill himself, his staff, and his guests more or less goes off without a hitch. Margot only survives because he chooses to spare her in the end.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Margot gets in a fight to the death with Elsa, and despite sustaining several cuts, she still looks immaculately put together aside from some blood on her arms and dress.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Margot figuring out the why of Slowik's menu and his dissatisfaction with molecular gastronomy, coupled with her asking him to make her a regular cheeseburger — knowing that one of his few happy memories was from when he was a cook at a burger joint — is what results in Slowik sparing her life.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Margot manages to escape with a sense of triumph over Slowik and a delicious cheeseburger to boot, but she is the Final Girl. At least the cheeseburger that saved her life was only $9.95, as opposed to the others paying $1,250...and with their lives.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The primary conflict is between a cult of murderous cooks and a mix of snobby social elites and white-collar criminals, of whom only Tyler generally comes off as deserving of their misfortune.
  • Black Comedy: The entire movie of course, but shout out to Jeremy's suicide followed by a display of his personalized meal "The Mess" which lists all of the ingredients like the previous meals followed by "R.I.P. Jeremy Louden".
  • Blunt "No": Elsa's nonchalant answer to the request for bread from one of the tables.
  • Bookends: The film opens with a shot of the flame of Margot's cigarette lighter. It ends with the restaurant in flames.
  • Bottle Episode: The bulk of the movie takes place at the Hawthorn, Slowik's restaurant. The guests are treated as hostages, so they can't leave unless in a handful of scenes, including the beginning, where they arrive on the island and are treated to a tour on the way to the restaurant and a scene where the men are given a chance to flee. Even the scene in Slowik's home is a place that is meant to be exactly similar to the Hawthorn, except empty.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The contents of the gift bags. "A booklet of our local suppliers, some house-made granola, one of Doug Verrick's fingers, and a copy of tonight's menu".
  • Break the Haughty:
    • After spending the majority of the film being a condescending, uncaring, self-interested, and self-congratulatory waste of skin, Tyler undergoes one. He's outed by Chef Slowik for knowing that everyone would die, but not only keeping quiet out of egregious personal interest but hiring a prostitute, Margot, to bring into the lion's den after his girlfriend dumped him—which is callous at best, an act of violence against a sex worker at worst—simply because Hawthorn doesn't seat single diners. He's nearly torn apart by an (understandably) enraged Margot. He is savagely humiliated by Chef Slowik when he's forced to improvise a dish and ends up serving an unpalatable mess, showing that for all his pretentious knowledge of haute cuisine, he doesn't have a clue how to actually cook a decent meal. Finally, Slowik whispers something in his ear that hammers the final nail in the coffin. After those incidents, Tyler is only a watery-eyed shell of a man who takes his own life in the back of the kitchen.
    • Almost every one of the patrons has a degree of obnoxious superiority. By the end, they are so broken and devoid of arrogance by Chef Slowik's psychological and emotional torment that when they're about to be incinerated, they not only accept their fate, but some of them also thank Chef Slowik for giving them what they "deserve".
  • Break Them by Talking:
    • What happens to Tyler after Julian humiliates him in the kitchen. He whispers something in his ear that leaves him completely broken and leads him to hang himself.
    • How Margot manages to escape Hawthorn. After discovering Slowik's only happy memory is being a line cook in a restaurant, she manages to play to his ego by stating nothing he made that night was "made with love", and convinces him to prepare, not anything fancy, but a basic cheeseburger. He eventually does so, and lets her leave with her order "to go" when she experiences true happiness at having something that Slowik actually enjoyed cooking for her. As such, she's the only member of the cast that survives to see the credits roll.
  • Burger Fool: Subverted. One of Julian's first jobs was at a cheap burger restaurant, but he was apparently quite happy while working there.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Julian's issue with Richard and Anne is that even though they've dined at Hawthorn eleven times, they can't remember a single dish they've eaten. They're so privileged that they can semi-frequent a place normal people would be lucky to even visit once, and despite this fact (or, in fact, because of it), they have no actual appreciation for it whatsoever.
  • Casting Couch: The "Men's Folly" portion of the meal is introduced by one of Julian's sous chefs, Katherine, who calmly describes how Chef Slowik had sexually harassed her multiple times and then made her job even more difficult when she rebuffed his advances. She then ritualistically stabs him in the leg, and the men are chased off into the woods. The sous chef then confesses to the other women that she came up with the idea to kill everyone at the end of the meal, implying that Julian's final menu was motivated by the chef wanting to punish himself as much as to punish the guests.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: It's mentioned that there is no phone service on the island and thus no way to call for help when people start getting hurt.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The framed photo in Chef Julian's house give Margot the information she needs to survive the night, as it portrayed him when he was a young, ordinary, but ultimately happy line cook at a burger joint. Margot invokes this by asking Julian to prepare her a cheeseburger, which touches him so much that he lets her go in the end.
  • Closed Circle: The story takes place in a restaurant in a small island. There is little else in the isle beside the restaurant and the facilities used for it and the crew. While the guests are held hostage in the restaurant, there is also no way to flee even if they did leave. Margot manages to flee only because Slowik set up a fake rescue mission that brought a boat back. Even then, that boat runs out of fuel a few miles away.
  • Comfort Food: A cheeseburger, that tastes ".. exactly like the first one you ever ate. The one your parents were almost too poor to afford.". This time, it's not intended to invoke nostalgia in the diner, however, but the cook.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Richard and Anne have dined at Hawthorn eleven times, casually paying $1,250 per head on each occasion, even though they can't recall a single course served to them.
  • Convenient Escape Boat: Subverted. During his escape, one of the male guests actually finds a boat by the shore but gets caught by the staff before embarking on it.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Julian had a rigged radionote  in his private cabin and a phony Coast Guard officer on standby on the off chance that one of the patrons managed to get into his cabin and tried calling for help.
  • Credits Gag: The opening credits state "Searchlight Pictures invites you to experience The Menu", as opposed to simply "Searchlight Pictures presents The Menu".
  • Cult: Hawthorn operates an awful lot like one with Julian as their charismatic leader and figurehead. They all live and work on an island isolated from the rest of society, but Julian has a private residence that no one else is allowed to enter while his employees are crammed together in a dormitory where the toilets are just a few feet away from the beds without even a partition for privacy. Despite this, they have absolute loyalty to Chef Julian to the point of planning and enacting the Murder-Suicide plot.
  • Dead Sparks: Richard and Anne are a wealthy couple who seem to have absolutely no passion in their lives, least of all towards each other.
  • Devastating Remark: Chef Slowik whispers into Tyler's ear something disparaging after the latter's terrible cook. This causes Tyler to hang himself.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Invoked in-universe. It's revealed that Margot isn't Tyler's girlfriend, but an escort he hired to bring along to Hawthorn despite knowing full well what Slowik had planned. Ultimately subverted, however, as Margot turns out to be the Final Girl.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Of all the guests there, Slowik's reason for choosing George Diaz is one of the most deliciously petty - he watched George's movie Calling Dr. Sunshine on one of his rare days off, hated it and developed a rather virulent grudge over that.
    • When Diaz wonders why Slowik is targeting his assistant Felicity, Slowik responds by asking her what college she went to (Brown) and whether she has any student debt (she doesn't), then flatly states that she's going to die. Even if she is a taker who offers nothing of value in returnnote , the fact that he chooses to bring this up when questioned very much gives off the impression that he's targeting her for murder primarily for being born into privilege.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: It's kept intentionally ambiguous in a way that only adds to the insanity, but apparently Katherine, the chef Slowik sexually harassed, came up with the idea of the ritualistic murder-suicide that would kill her, Slowik, her co-workers, and the wealthy guests. If that's the truth or simply another obscurity to mess with the patrons' (and audiences') heads, it's impossible to say.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Julian does not mince words when he mentions his loathing of s'mores.
  • The Dragon: Elsa serves as this to Slowik, being a highly competent and devoted enforcer of his will.
  • Driven to Suicide:
  • Eat the Rich: Chef Julian's primary motivation is to exact revenge on the people who have made his life a stressful hell without even properly appreciating his food and most of his elite clientele are shown to be rather contemptible. Since Julian himself is very wealthy, and parts of the menu extend to punishing himself, the ethos extends to him as well.
  • Employee of the Month: Not surprisingly, a young Julian was this at the fast food restaurant he started his career at. Judging by where his photo is placed in his office, it may still be his proudest accomplishment.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: By the final act, Margot herself has run out of options. She can't run or fight. She can't call for help and even if she managed to, it would come too late. She's literally minutes away from the final course being served. Then, suddenly, she remembers something and claps.
    Margot: I don't like your food.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Julian goes off-script specifically to humiliate Tyler because he knew that everyone was going to die and brought a working-class escort just so he could still attend.
  • Evil Is Petty: Most of Julian's motive is to take revenge against the decadent, corrupt rich people he's spent his life serving, but various moments make it clear that he's just as angry at them for various personal slights.
    • The reason Julian invites George to dinner is because years ago, he spent one of his few days off watching a film of his that he didn't like. As George notes, he wasn't the one who wrote it, he just acted in it, but Julian associates his face with the movie, therefore he must die. The underlying implication is that George put out a bad product that cost moviegoers their precious time and money, and that he knew it was bad and didn't care because he had a good time shooting it, collected a paycheck, and could just blame everyone else for its failure. Julian took it personally because he hadn't had a day off in months and wasted it seeing the movie.
    • George's assistant Felicity gets it by virtue of the fact that she attended an Ivy League school via wealthy parents. While being born into a wealthy family is not through any fault of her own, throughout the dinner it is both heavily implied and outright stated that she continues to lean on connections and taking other people's money without actually producing anything meaningful herself.
    • In the middle of his rant against Doug Verrick, the corrupt "Angel Investor" who bankrolls Hawthorn, the angriest we see Julian in the entire film is at the fact that Verrick asked for substitutions. This suggests that Verrick didn't actually believe in Julian's work or like his food, but just saw it as a business investment, which Julian did not appreciate.
    • When he overhears Lillian complaining about the broken emulsion of one of the spreads on the "breadless bread plate", he has Elsa and a cook bring an entire bowl of that broken emulsion to her table. Twice.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The entire movie takes place over the course of about 4-5 hours one evening.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When Julian sets the restaurant on fire at the end of the film to kill everyone, he, his staff, and the by now thoroughly-broken guests quietly sit and let the flames take them.
  • False Reassurance: After Jeremy's grisly death, Slowik and his staff pacify the guests by insisting that the events are "all part of the menu", leading them to draw the conclusion that it's All Part of the Show. The deaths, however are very real, and the night only becomes more hectic from then on.
  • Fingore:
    • Richard gets his ring finger cut off in Yubitsume style when he tries to exit the dinner early.
    • Each gift bag distributed to the diners include one of Doug Verrick's fingers.
  • Food Porn: As a movie set in the world of haute cuisine, this is to be expected, although Margot finds the fancy trappings off-putting.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The first third of the movie is full of clues to the fact that Margot is an escort that Tyler hired to be his date for the evening. To wit...
      • When Tyler tells Margot to stop making fun of Hawthorn's $1,250-a-head price tag, she shrugs and responds, "It's your dime." Turns out she's not dropping the subject because he's paying for the meal, but because he's paying for her to act as an agreeable date.
      • When they first arrive on the island and they're checking their reservation, Tyler doesn't know Margot's last name. One might assume it's just early in their relationship and he's an inconsiderate, pompous ass. It's actually because she's an escort, and either she didn't tell him, or he didn't ask.
      • When Tyler says he wants Chef to like him, Margot says it doesn't matter, as Tyler is paying him to provide a service. This causes Tyler to look concerned and start to ask what she means by that, before being interrupted. On the reveal that she's an escort, it's clear she's speaking from experience, and his concern comes from his need to be liked.
      • Similarly, when Margot refuses to eat one of the courses, Tyler yells at her that he "is the one paying". Once again, he is not talking about the meal, he is talking about her.
    • Elsa mentions early on that the cooks never burn anything unless it's done intentionally for the menu. The film ends with everyone on Hawthorn Island being burned to death as the conclusion of the titular menu.
    • Slowik states that each guest should think of themselves as "ingredients in a degustationnote  concept." Later on, they all become part of the ingredients in the final course.
    • Near the start of the meal, Anne mentions that Margot looks a lot like hers and Richard's daughter, which he angrily denies. Later in the night Margot (who's an escort) tells Julian that her servicing Richard involved a weird roleplay in which she pretended to be his daughter.
    • When eating the first course, Margot sarcastically pretends to "understand" Slowik's intellectual process behind creating the dishes. As the film progresses, it becomes apparent that Margot is the only one who truly understands where Slowik's dissatisfaction comes from.
    • After the breadless bread plate is served, Tyler starts going on about the game aspect of guessing the overarching theme of the dinner as it progresses. Margot doesn't care and is incredulous with Tyler, saying Slowik is "basically insulting them" with the dish. By dismissing Tyler's fanboying about the theme of the dinner, Margot, ironically, has immediately correctly guessed the theme—Slowik's vision is to insult and take revenge against the guests who have sucked the joy out of his craft. Margot catching on to Slowik's insult so quickly also foreshadows that she will have the grounded worker's perspective that will ultimately prove her unworthy of being murdered by Slowik.
    • Upon receiving tortillas containing evidence of his wire fraud, Soren threatened to have Hawthorn's closed by the morning to which Elsa replies "That won't be necessary". Julian and his staff have already planned to close the restaurant the very same night through fatal means.
    • While taking a smoke break in the bathroom, Margot sees the giant wings being prepared for the "angel investor" display through an open window.
    • Early on, Tyler makes a big deal about noticing the PacoJet the cooks are using. Later, Margot uses the machine to briefly incapacitate Elsa.
    • Margot sees photos on display in Chef Julian's house, showing that the only time he appeared truly happy was when he was a humble line cook at a burger joint. She takes advantage of this to catch him off guard and convince him to let her escape.
    • Tyler's Dissonant Serenity in the face of all the chaos makes a lot more sense when we learn that he was told ahead of time that no one was getting out of Hawthorn alive.
    • The "Coast Guard" mentioning that he loved George's poorly received film that Julian specifically despises is an early giveaway that he's just another part of the menu. The fact that he's alone and his shirt isn't to regulation are also telling.
  • Four Is Death: The Fourth Course, "The Mess," is introduced with the choreographed suicide of the sous chef who prepared it. The Fourth Course is also the point of the meal where people start dying.
  • Freudian Excuse: The first real sign that something unhinged is going on comes in the third course, "Memory", when Julian describes his childhood abuse by his alcoholic father (who he once had to stab in the leg with scissors and now regrets not aiming for the throat) and his neglect by an equally alcoholic mother ... who's sitting in the room in a drunken stupor. He then serves the guests chicken pierced with scissors and later immolates his mother with the rest of the guests.
  • Funny Background Event: When Margot leaves the restaurant in the finale, Slowik's mother can be seen passed out at her table, a couple scenes before the camera focuses on her.
  • Fun with Subtitles: Each "course," along with its ingredients, are listed on the screen as the dinner continues. The glamour shots of the food and the subtitle are done as a parody of the ones seen on the documentary series Chef's Table. As the dinner progresses, they get progressively more and more unhinged:
    • "The Mess" concludes with "R.I.P Jeremy Louden."
    • The course Chef Julian forces Tyler to cook is called "Tyler's Bullshit", and the ingredients are all described in disparaging terms.
    • The cheeseburger is described as "Just a Very Well Made Cheeseburger", not even an ingredients list.
    • The ingredients for the s'mores include the guests, staff and restaurant.
  • Groin Attack: Subverted. While introducing the "Men's Folly" course, Katherine stabs Slowik with scissors. She just stabs him in the thigh, but given the camera angle of the initial attack, coupled with this being preceded by Katherine recounting how Slowik sexually harassed her, you'd be forgiven for thinking that she'd stabbed him in the groin.
  • Gut Punch: The sous chef's suicide marks the harsh transition from what appears to be a drama movie into a Psychological Thriller.
  • Happiness in Minimum Wage: The last time Slowik was genuinely happy was when he worked as a fry cook at a burger joint. Margot learning this is what allows her to survive the night.
  • Helpless Observer Protagonist: Even Margot, the most active of the guests in trying to escape, spends most of the movie as helpless as everyone else. Slowik claims they might have escaped if they'd made more of an effort, but the staff easily overpower Richard when he tries early on, so it's debatable whether Slowik actually believes this, or is simply messing with them.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Invoked by Julian. Margot manages to call in help from the Coast Guard, and George manages to slip a message to the officer, who draws a gun on Julian ... and then it turns out that he's on Julian's payroll, and was just putting on an act to mess with everyone.
    • Later, after Margot is allowed to leave, chef Julian announces that payment is due and that gift bags will be provided to the guests along with a copy of the menu. It appears for a moment that he has changed his mind and that the other guests will also be allowed to leave — but then the staff brings out the final dish ...
  • Humiliation Conga: Tyler gets one in rapid succession once his role in the menu is exposed by Julian. It starts with Margot punching him in the face (and would've continued if she hadn't been pulled off him), immediately following with Julian humiliating him in the kitchen by making him cook and finally driving him to suicide.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: In one course, every male diner is released into the woods in order to be hunted down. Downplayed, however, as they're not killed in the forest — just brought back to Hawthorn. The "winner" is even rewarded with an extra dessert.
  • I Am a Monster: Julian thinks this of himself as revealed in a discussion with Margot. He's basically right.
  • Idiot Ball: Though surrounded by people trying to kill her, Margot abandons the knife she found once she gets inside Julian's home, allowing Elsa to take it and add more danger to their fight.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: How Margot kills Elsa after their struggle in Julian's house.
  • Improvised Weapon: When Elsa tries to kill Margot with a knife, the latter takes advantage of the fact that she's in a fully-equipped kitchen and uses the environment plus whatever she can lay her hands on to fight back. Starting with a grille that Elsa manages to dodge, followed by rolling over the center island to put an obstruction between them, then a log that knocks her off her feet, and finally a PacoJet to the head that disorients her enough for Margot to overpower and kill her.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Shortly after learning (from the man himself before allowing her to stab him in the leg) that Julian had sexually harassed the sous-chef Katherine, Lillian attempts to convince her that she doesn't have to go through with the night's agenda that ends with everyone there, both guests and staff, dead simply because he's forcing her to. Katherine then cheerfully reveals that the everybody dying part was actually her idea. Hearing this, Lillian sighs and pours herself another glass of wine, while others instantly join her.
  • Ironic Echo: A non-verbal example. Chef Julian signals the beginning of each course by loudly clapping his hands a single time. Margot does the same thing at the film's climax to catch his attention and give a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • It's All About Me: Chef wants to punish those whom he sees as responsible for taking away his passion for cooking. But one could argue that a true artist would be more focused on ensuring appreciation of the art rather than the artist themself.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: About halfway through the movie, Chef Julian as set up for one of the meals allows the female chef in his employ that he had been sexually harassing in the past to stab him in the thigh. He does limp somewhat afterwards, but not as much as might be expected for an untreated stab wound.
  • Kiss of Death: Julian kisses Jeremy on his cheeks before the latter eats his gun.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Throughout the film, the guests seem strangely resigned to their fate to facilitate the film's satire and dark humor and prevent the plot from devolving into a series of physical confrontations. In the end, Julian notes that the guests haven't made as much of an effort to escape as you might expect.
  • Match Cut: Richard gets his ring finger hacked off when trying to leave but as his wedding band rolls to a stop, the scene immediately cuts to Tyler casually slicing his cylindrical potato confit to fit into his mouth.
  • Moment of Silence: After Jeremy kills himself, Julian and the kitchen staff observe a brief one before serving Jeremy's dish "The Mess" (although this might not be so much as a sign of respect; they might be standing still so they do not enter the trajectory of the bullet).
  • Money Is Not Power: The patrons, with the exception of the working-class Margot, who either have a lot of money or connections, are all at the mercy of Chef Julian and his staff.
  • Mood Whiplash: Julian's "Memory" course explanation starts with a funny "Taco Tuesday" memory premise... only to be followed by a story of how his young self stabbed his drunk father in the thigh with a kitchen scissor when the latter wrapped a phone chord around his mother's neck.
  • Morton's Fork: In recognition of the fact that she wasn't supposed to be there, Slowik offers Margot the choice of dying with the staff or dying as a guest. Margot asserts out that the choice is meaningless since both involve her dying, an unacceptable outcome, though Slowik disagrees.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: When has ordering a cheeseburger and fries to go been so epic?
  • Murder-Suicide:
    • The true nature of Chef Julian's dinner. He finds his life so miserable that he wants to end it, and he intends to take down the members of the entitled elite who drove him to such a state.
    • Tyler hired Margot to be his plus-one, despite knowing from the very beginning that the dinner would end in both of their deaths along with everyone else.
  • Nice to the Waiter:
    • Invoked by Margot. When Tyler reacts with astonishment that one of Julian's cooks knew his name, she notes that he neglected to ask the chef's name in return. He waves this off as unimportant. He doesn't know her last name either, and his overall treatment of her is quite poor, even before we find out that he knowingly sentenced her to death by bringing her to Hawthorn.
    • The rest of the diners are no better, particularly the finance bros, who openly antagonize Elsa and demand food that's not on the menu from the very start (before the night's true nature is revealed).
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Much of Chef Slowik's character and backstory is a loving satire of Gordon Ramsay, including his abusive childhood, brigade-style kitchen, penchant for calling people "donkey," and tendency to fly into rages only to abruptly calm down moments later.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Chef Slowik sees Margot, the working-girl escort that has been forced into this situation despite her date Tyler knowing he was bringing her along to die, as similar to all of the hard-working staff of Hawthorn that are forced to give up parts of themselves to provide temporary pleasure to the rich.
  • Oh, Crap!: George gives a final one when he realizes that he's about to be set on fire along with everyone else.
  • Onscreen Chapter Titles: Each course is introduced with its name and details onscreen.
  • Ordered to Die: Slowik manipulated around 30 cooks, waiters/guards and sommelier into a murder/suicide pact without blinking. It helped that the staff was isolated, sleep-deprived and lacked privacy in a high-tension/high-performance environment, and then you have Slowik who is a master manipulator having access to you 24/7. He is so successful that the staff themselves proposes that everyone needs to die.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Tyler is the only diner who's having a good time and enjoying the food. Up to a point. After Slowik exposes the fact that he knew everyone was going to die beforehand, things quickly go downhill for him as he's humiliated and finally hangs himself.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • The Hawthorn staff took the time to bake a birthday cake for one of the businessmen (although their words suggest that it isn't actually a birthday and it was just intended as a joke before things escalated).
    • Ordering a fast food cheeseburger, Margot reignites Slowik's passion in his craft and reminds him why he got into it to begin with. As a result, he packs her food for her when she asks him to and then grants her her freedom, allowing her to leave with her life.
    • Before departing, Margot looks back at the guests, almost unsure about leaving them behind. As she looks over the room, no one seems to begrudge her escape (Lillian notably looks impressed). The sweeping shot ends on Anne, who only found out hours ago that her husband was a client of Margot's, and who gently gestures at her to go on.
    • Combined with Even Evil Has Standards, it's made clear that unexpected deviations are against Julian's professional ethos, but he interrupts the service unprompted to humiliate Tyler after revealing that Tyler knowingly brought an innocent person with him to die.
    • The very fact that Julian informed Tyler ahead of time what was going to happen implies that he was trying to spare someone he thought was merely an overenthusiastic fan and it was only after he revealed just how vile and selfish a person he was that Julian decided to include him among the victims.
  • Precious Photo: Julian's office is extremely sparsely decorated and contains only a handful of newspaper scraps and a few photos of his early restaurant successes and of his family. However, the one picture that is framed and on most prominent display is his Employee of the Month award from his first job as a fast food line cook. This turns out to be very important.
  • Precision F-Strike: Delivered by Margot at the film's climax.
    Margot: You're a chef. Your one purpose on this earth is to serve food that people might enjoy, and you failed. You failed, and you've bored me, and the worst thing is, I'm still fucking hungry.
  • Quiet Cry for Help: Instead of giving the coast guard an autograph, George writes "HELP US" on the card.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Margot gives a pretty epic one to Julian in the film's climax, calling out his pretentiousness and downright telling him that his attitude towards food has sucked out all the fun of cooking and food in general. It works too, as she challenges him to cook her just an ordinary cheeseburger. And this is all despite the shit having already hit the fan at this point.
      Margot: Come on, Chef, I thought tonight was a night of hard home truths? This is one of them: you cook with obsession, not love. Even your hot dishes are cold. You're a chef. Your single purpose on this earth is to serve people food they might actually like, and you have failed. You failed, and you've bored me. And the worst part is... I'm still fuckin' hungry.
    • Julian himself gives a short but rather biting one to the surviving diners as he moves into the final course, telling them they "represent the ruin of [his] art and [his] life."
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • The menu runs off of this. Highlights include bread plates with no bread to mock the affluence of the clientele, a taco decorated to evoke a domestic abuse incident (with tortillas adorned with personalized insults and threats), a cook killing himself prior to presenting a dish called "The Mess", and a final dessert course in which the guests are dressed in marshmallow smocks and chocolate hats to be burned alive as s'mores.
    • Margot, after everything has hit the fan and Chef Julian has decided that she deserves to die with the guests after all, calls him out on his hypocrisy and declares she's still hungry. She then orders a traditional cheeseburger and fries (the one and only thing that Julian still enjoys preparing). Then asks for it to go. And it works.
  • The Reveal: Aside from the one about the purpose of the night's dinner, we also learn that:
    • Richard once hired Margot/Erin for her sexual services, requesting that she role-play as his dead daughter.
    • Margot isn't Tyler's girlfriend, but an escort he hired — and her name isn't Margot. It's Erin. She isn't from Grand Island, Nebraska but actually Brockton, Massachusetts.
    • Tyler knew going into the night's dinner that Chef Julian didn't plan on leaving any of them alive, and he brought an escort to go with him because Hawthorn doesn't allow single diners.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • Much of Margot and Tyler's early conversations take on an entirely different light when it's revealed that they are not a couple, and Margot is an escort he hired. From Margot cheerfully commenting that Tyler is paying (not just for the meal, as originally implied), to Tyler lamenting that he hadn't spent time with women like Margot before, their dialogue is peppered with double-meanings and foreshadowing.
    • Tyler crying after Chef's introductory speech takes on a different context knowing the reveal that no one is supposed to make it out of the dinner alive, which Tyler knows about. As such, his seemingly overblown reaction to Chef's comments on the brevity of human life seems much more genuine.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Whatever Julian whispered to Tyler that caused him to hang himself immediately after is never revealed. Only the two of them know.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The myth of Tantalus is subtly referenced throughout the film. The silver door that hides Julian's secret room has a Greek-esque image of a figure surrounded by what looks like flowering plants, yet his face looks fixed in horror. This alludes to how Tantalus was punished to always be within reach of food and water, but could never touch it. Julian's dinner as a whole also alludes to how Tantalus served dinner to the Olympians, and served them his own son to show they were not true gods. Except instead of gods, Julian is trying to make his point to the rich elite, who are completely powerless to stop him without their resources. And lastly, both Julian and Margot are service workers who no longer feel pleasure and happiness from their jobs, also symbolizing the punishment of Tantalus. Near the end of the film, the myth is directly named when Margot sees that Julian's career kick-started in a restaurant named Tantalus.
    • Richard has his ring finger cut off, shortly after proof of his infidelity is revealed.
    • Katherine Keller stabs Slowik in the same place Slowik stabbed his abusive father.
  • Running Gag: Tyler makes repeated references to a Pacojet (an extremely expensive piece of kitchen equipment used to puree frozen foods without thawing them, which an amateur cook like Tyler should have no reason to have except to look posh), to the point where Slowik mockingly asks him during his failed cooking attempt if he would like to use one. A Pacojet actually does appear during Margot and Elsa's fight.
  • Sanity Slippage: Subtle, but right before Julian sets the room on fire and makes one last call out to his staff, even all the guests who are about to die shout back "We love you, chef!", apparently broken by the night's events and their imminent deaths.
  • Scenery Porn: Hawthorn is set on a beautiful island, and the camera lovingly captures its landscape.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: The three techbros consistently bring up their connection to Doug Verrick, Hawthorn's "angel investor," to try and get special treatment or threaten punishment against Slowick for their mistreatment. This continues until they're Forced to Watch as Verrick is drowned before their eyes.
  • Secret Test of Character: Chef Julian gives Margot one by having her leave the restaurant to go retrieve a barrel without supervision. She ends up going to his cottage, where she finds a radio in his office and calls for help. After a brief Hope Spot, it turns out that the person she called actually works for him. He then accuses her of breaking their "sacred bond of trust" and deems her a "taker" and she fails the test. But then it turns out that, thanks to a photograph she saw in his office, she passes his test and lives.
  • Serendipitous Survival: An offscreen example. Tyler's girlfriend dumping him prevents her from accompanying him to the island, keeping her away from the demented Chef Slowik and almost certainly saving her life.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: John Leguizamo mentioned in an interview that each table can be read in this way: Envy (wannabe chef Tyler), Gluttony (Julian's alcoholic mother), Greed (the finance bros), Lust (the adulterous Richard), Pride (the snobby critics), Sloth (paycheck actor George), and Wrath (Julian and the kitchen)
  • Sherlock Scan: Chef Julian correctly deduces that Margot is lying about her name, and that she is working-class, like himself and his staff.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When insulting Anne, Chef Julian calls her a "donkey."
    • Tyler mentions his obsessive watching of the Netflix series Chef's Table.
    • The dessert course is plated directly on the floor of the restaurant with artful swoops of sauce on the floor. The dessert course at the molecular gastronomy restaurant Alinea is also plated this way except directly on the table (plus the scene is almost a shot-by-shot recreation of said restaurant's episode in Chef's Table; ironically, Alinea's dish takes advantage of the cold, while Hawthorn plates theirs for the intention of lighting everything on fire).
  • Shown Their Work:
    • As the film takes place at a high-end restaurant, the production brought in three Michelin star chef Dominique Crenn to design the dishes as well as actual kitchen staff in front of the camera to make the food scenes as real as possible.
    • The radio in the cabin that was used to call the "Coast Guard" at first glance appears to be just a prop. But taking a closer look reveals that it's a CB radio, not a VHF Radio, that is set to channel 16. Channel 16 is the correct Marine channel to call for help, but an unused channel in CB. Also, given the unreliability of Citizens Band and the limited transmitting range (5 miles), the Coast Guard doesn't even monitor that band nor is it likely to be picked up by authorities on the mainland.
  • Silent Whisper: After humiliating him in front of everyone, Julian whispers something into Tyler's ear. We never learn what was said, but it's enough to make Tyler immediately go hang himself in a closet in the back.
  • Sinister Schnoz: A few times, we get a close look at one of the unnamed female cooks, who has quite a big nose.
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Margot's low bun updo hairstyle comes undone when Elsa is trying to kill her in Julian's house, leaving Margot to spend the second half of the movie with her long red hair down.
  • Snooty Haute Cuisine: Slowik laments that his exquisitely prepared haute cuisine is only eaten by the wealthy as a status symbol. It's why he's got a grudge against the Leibrandts, who have paid thousands of dollars to eat at his exclusive restaurant eleven times in the past five years and can't remember anything they ate during any of those visits. Preparing a cheeseburger for the working-class Margot finally brings back some genuine emotion in his cooking.
  • Sommelier Speak: Hawthorn's resident sommelier plays this completely straight ... and continues to do so long after the dinner has derailed into chaos.
  • Spanner in the Works: Margot is not supposed to be at the dinner and her very presence throws off the meticulously planned event. It ultimately doesn't change Julian's plan and even gives him one last happy moment.
  • Stealth Insult: The first few courses and Chef Julian's explanations of them are insults towards his diners. It starts subtly but gets more blatant with each course. Margot, the most working-class of the diners, catches on with the introduction of the bread-less bread course, but the others don't until the tortillas laser engraved with their misdeeds are served.
  • Suddenly Shouting: In the middle of his speech for the "Angel Investor" course, Chef Julian mentions one of the many things he hates about Doug Verrick. Justified, as he was shouting through a pane of bulletproof and (mostly) soundproof glass:
    Chef Julian: He would even request substitutions, despite the fact that there are NO SUBSTITUTIONS AT HAWTHORN!!!
  • Sudden Morbid Monologue: From the "Memory" course onward, the anecdotes, whether from Julian or his sous-chefs related to the menu item become increasingly unsettling.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: As insane and cruel as Chef Julian has become, Margot is the only one who actually catches on to the why of his menu: he's extremely dissatisfied with his fame and notoriety when it comes to haute cuisine, to the point where his only happy memory is when he was an unknown line cook at a burger joint. By ordering a cheeseburger from him at the very end, she's the only one to show she understands him, and thus the only guest who earns his mercy.
  • Take That!:
    • The film gleefully takes aim at food snobs and influencers. Tyler comes across as quite pretentious as he takes pictures of his food, goes on about mouthfeel, and gushes about the extremely private restaurant they are going to. Once Chef Julian forces him to cook something himself, he fumbles completely and makes a dish aptly titled "Tyler's Bullshit", which is just a mess of unwashed and badly chopped leek, shallot, butter and undercooked lamb.
    • It also aims at the convoluted and showy world of modern fine dining, where the meal is so much of an experience that it doesn't actually provide anything of nutritional substance, let alone sate someone's appetite. Which is how Margot feels up until the end, as, despite the events of the entire evening, she's still hungry.
    • The wealthy and privileged are also in the film's line of fire. When George asks why Felicity, his assistant, is marked for death, it emerges that she went to Brown, with no student debt. Slowik immediately tells her "I'm sorry; you're dying".
    • At one point, Julian is unintentionally on the receiving end when he reveals to George that the only reason why he's there is because George was the star of Calling Doctor Sunshine, and Julian watched the bad movie on one of his very rare (like, once every three months) days off. When George points out that he didn't write the movie, Julian dismisses this by saying he still took the role for profit, losing his touch as an artist. This is almost identical to Real Life harassment and death threats levied at actors for being in a movie or show that fans didn't like, so the film essentially compares these types of "fans" to a self-centered, narcissistic perfectionist. It's also a Hypocrisy Nod, as Margot points out that nothing he's been doing to cater to his wealthy clients has been done with love or passion, either.
  • Tears of Joy: Slowik has these in his eyes as he prepares Margot's order (and his final cooked meal): a simple cheeseburger and fries.
  • Unknown Rival: Elsa to Margot. From the moment Margot arrives and is noted to be not who they were expecting, Elsa is openly hostile to her. This only gets worse as Chef Slowik seems to take an interest in her. It comes to a boiling point when the Chef declares Margot is "one of them" and demeans Elsa in front of her. Elsa attempts to kill Margot, declaring that the other woman will "never replace her", though Margot has no interest in replacing Elsa and just wants to leave.
  • Villain Respect: Slowik without a doubt shows it — even if not right away — to Margot for how she not only is not a rich, privileged snob and that she also works in a very beleaguered and put-down service job, but how she manages to command the same presence and level that he does, call him out on his own clear disillusionment and lack of passion, and then reignite the inspiration within him by asking for a humble cheeseburger—to the point that he's clearly grateful and lets her walk out alive.
  • Villain Reveals the Secret: Between courses, Slowik pauses the menu specifically to expose Tyler for knowing he was planning to kill everyone and not only coming anyway but hiring a prostitute to fill in for his ex-girlfriend.
  • Visual Pun: When the male guests are captured after their brief chance to escape, Ted is found last because he's too scared to run. So he hides. In a coop. With the other chickens.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The finance bros jokingly dump on each other at the start of the dinner, admitting they're all assholes. Once it becomes clear they're in danger, they drop this behavior.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Julian’s investor, Doug Verrick’s only time onscreen is spent being drowned to death in the ocean.
  • Wham Line:
    • The reveal of Margot's true profession:
      Slowik: You belong here, with your own breed. [...] I know a fellow service industry worker when I see one.
    • Earlier than that, the reveal of Slowik's dinner plan:
      Slowik: Let you live? No! Of course not. Can't you see, that would ruin the menu. We're all gonna die tonight. Isn't that right?
      Cooks: Yes, Chef!
      • And the reveal of Tyler's foreknowledge, which only serves to further his Jerkassery:
        Slowik: What were you told ahead of time?
        Tyler: You told me that it'd be the greatest menu ever created.
        Slowik: Right, and? And?
        Tyler: And that everyone would die.
    • Assuming she's telling the truth, Elsa's last words to Margot before being killed by her implies that Margot is being shaped up to play a major role in Slowik's performance.
      Elsa: He didn't tell me about the barrel. I didn't forget.
  • While Rome Burns: At the very end of the movie, Margot watches Hawthorn burn in the distance ... Then takes another big bite of her cheeseburger. She's still hungry.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Margot is dumbfounded when she breaks into Julian's cabin and finds that it's designed to look exactly like the interior of Hawthorn (plus a bed in the dining area).
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: The three employees of Doug Verrick try to pressure Elsa into giving them bread by invoking their connection to Verrick. She knows this already and doesn't care.


Video Example(s):


Angel Investior

Doug Verrick is strapped to angel wings and then drowned, After asking Chef Slowik to Make Menu Substitutions. Despite the fact that there are No Substitutions At Hawthorne.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / CruelAndUnusualDeath

Media sources: