Unsurprisingly, a lot of our loosely structured themes on the Collab end up veering into horror territory. However, I think the unintentional cannibalism subtheme of the past couple of weeks is a first, even for us. This week’s pick has been getting a lot of buzz for its disturbing scenes in the vein of Sweeney Todd, though I can’t help wondering if some of the more upset stomachs have ever been around for a Julia Ducournau film.
A young woman who has all but given up on the world of dating is thrilled to meet a man who seems to good to be true…and definitely is.
Noa has been on too many dating apps to count, and all she’s got to show for it are men who overshare details of their indigestion and share unsolicited dick pics. After a rather depressing evening, Noa discovers she has absolutely nothing in the fridge and must venture into the world for sustenance.
While in the produce section, Noa encounters surprisingly charming and extremely good-looking Steve, who more or less feeds her grapes?! It’s a more interesting trip to the store than I’ve had in a long time anyway. Desperate for the rom-com style meet-cute promised by any number of ’90s films, Noa gives Steve her number. Encouraged by bff Mollie, Noa decides to embrace the whirlwind romance that ensues.
Shortly after a single dream date where Noa feels really connected to Steve, she agrees to an impulsive weekend away. While Mollie gets rather sketchy vibes from this whole setup, she decides to be happy for her friend as long as she gets updates over the course of the weekend.
Of course, as soon as the couple arrives at their destination, it’s revealed that Steve’s isolated house in the country has no internet or cell service. Following their very first night in the house, Noa wakes up in a darkened room with Steve…who reveals he has drugged her and chained her to the floor. And it’s all in the name of cannibalism. Obviously.
To her horror, Noa learns she’s not alone in her prison, and is one victim among many in a massive underground bunker built expressly for the purpose of keeping women alive as Steve slowly carves them up. Not only does Steve enjoy human flesh himself, but he’s become a legend as the personal human butcher to the 1% of the 1%, who will pay excessive amounts of money for a taste.
With only the voice of Penny, the woman in the next room, to keep her relatively sane, Noa plans her escape. She quickly realizes a charm offensive is the way to go, though will Noa be able to stomach that any better than the prospect of pâté made from human liver…at least until Mollie can find her?
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
This one has such a twisted heart, and I love it for that. It has many of the same instincts of Promising Young Woman, or perhaps the feel of a horror written by Margaret Atwood. Thank god this is a comedy, as the truly disturbing themes and events (and the ways they stand in for sexual violence, psychological abuse, and human trafficking) throughout would be even more nauseating without the film’s sharp humor. I applaud the well-timed comic use of soundtrack in particular.
I appreciate that the film establishes Noa’s perspective initially, specifically where Steve is concerned. Steve doesn’t have horror movie music playing in the background when we meet him as, through Noa’s eyes, he’s a charming and good-looking man who is miles apart from anyone on the dating apps. Though there are hints that all is not well with Steve, the film is careful about not making Noa’s failure to see his real intentions at all her fault in any kind of victim-blaming way.
Daisy Edgar-Jones does great work here, but it’s Sebastian Stan who has the flashier role, and I already feel like I’ve been haunted for years by his character. He’s honestly fun to watch as he’s such a nightmarish figure, flipping so easily from sweet to seething. The way Steve is willing to believe Noa could genuinely care about him while keeping the threat of physical violence in his back pocket (even throwing around the vomit-inducing take on “you’re not like other girls”) feels like a chillingly accurate reflection.
I’m here for Mollie and her brilliant use of reverse Google image search–the best on film, in my opinion. I got a laugh out of one of the characters starting to investigate some of the disappearances and then bailing…especially since it allowed female solidarity to shine.
Word of advice: don’t try to watch this one while eating dinner.