Inácio is a restaurant owner on the edge. His high-end establishment is floundering and his sanity hanging by a sinewy thread. When an amateurish and garishly rapey robbery breaks the bitchy monotony that thread is severed. So begins a true kitchen nightmare that exposes the creeping rot in the foundations of the human condition.
Essentially a one location absurdist exploitation picture Friendly Beast is so playfully mischevious it transcends its trashy genealogy and becomes a hilariously well-pitched arthouse horror freak show.
Crammed full of startling imagery and inventive ambiguity there is a streak of raven nihilism running through it as wide as a psychotic grin.
The filmmakers show an unnerving understanding of the fluidity and scope of the language of cinema that makes this nasty movie far more entertaining than it has any right to be. Judicious punctuation of violence, dialogue to literally die for, social commentary as sharp as a pristine chef’s knife and audacious camerawork ensure there is never a dull moment. But there are more salient elements that make Friendly Beast such a boisterous blast.
Soundtracking the existential mayhem was always going to be challenging but the artistic reach showcased in this department is stunning. Incorporating the sound system of the restaurant is clever and humorous but it is the range, choice and timing of the music that really impresses, culminating in some of the most audiovisually arresting final frames in recent memory.
The laser-guided acting is lethal in its execution and in a sub-genre where commitment is king none of the cast leaves anything behind in the dressing room. Murilo Benícioas is mesmerising as Inácio, the twisted love child of Gordon Ramsey and Patrick Bateman. However, the movie belongs to theatre actress Luciana Paes as the debased, near-feral waitress Sara. Her bitterly candid performance is voraciously evil, heartbreakingly tawdry and courageously exposing. Not least in a jaw-dropping blood-streaked sex scene that makes the pool antics of Showgirls look like Victorian-era courtship.
Director Gabriela Amaral channels her love of Hitchcock and Steven King to harvest suspense and rich character depth respectively. Her anger at the political situation in Brazil is harnessed to energise the callous violence with organic purity and brutal honesty.
Friendly Beast is a vicious anthropological incrimination shot through with acidic wit and fiendish humour. A superbly crafted genre picture that claws at the rancid scabs of the human condition to reveal the raw horrors that lie beneath.
Bradley Hadcroft |
Horror Hostage Thriller| Brazil, 2017 | 1hr 38m. Portuguese with English subtitles | – Strong bloody violence | RT Features|UK 3rd March 2018 (Frightfest Glasgow) | Dir. Gabriela Amaral Almeida | Cast. Murilo Benício, Luciana Paes, Irandhir Santos