Brant Lewis calls Flux Gourmet a hypnotic dark comedy drawing us in with its sharp sound design, luxurious production, and costumes.
Peter Strickland created a distinct artistic style with films like In Fabric (2018), and his latest feature, Flux Gourmet, is no different. It is one of the more unique horror films to premiere this year, drawing audiences into its world of bizarre food performance artists, stomach ailments, and collectives. The Shudder exclusive makes for an excellent feast when viewed with an open mind.
At the remote Sonic Catering Institution, a trio of performance artists attempts to create art by taking the sounds out of various foods to utilize in their performance. However, the group consisting of Billy Rubin (Asa Butterfield), Lamina Propria (Ariane Labed), and Elle di Elle (Fatma Mohamed) have different ideas about what direction to take and vie for control. Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie), the stern director of the institute, interferes with the project and the collective's artistic identity by implanting her ideas. All the while, Stones (Makis Papadimitriou), an outsider, takes notes on their performances while attempting to hide his gastrointestinal problems from them.
The film's production design immediately calls to mind a retro feel without pointing to a specific decade or place in time—it could take place a decade ago or several years from now. This particular direction is reminiscent of directors like Yorgos Lanthimos, existing in a heightened and stylistic reality outside our own. The film's color palette brings to mind that older aesthetic with specific shades of blue, yellow, and title cards. The costumes, designed by Saffron Cullane deserve mention. Whether it's Billy's simple jeans, an elaborate jean jacket, or the glamorous dresses belonging to Jan, the costumes reflect their personalities and artistic status. Although a modern film, the fusion with the older aesthetics creates a distinctive artistic identity.
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The performance art plays a large role in the film's sound design. The synthesized noise from the food and feedback from the microphone becomes ingrained within the film itself. The food generates noises with an alien quality that help sell the performances' bizarre ritualistic nature, allowing us to unpack how the team created and chose them. Flux Gourmet takes an approach that is either a success or failure, and it is certainly a success.
Similarly, the cast does a great job of selling the film's freakish premise. Although not as flashy as the other performers, Papadimitriou grounds the narrative. He exudes an honest heart and humanity while also making us care about his digestive issues. The trio also gets their moment to shine, but Christie deserves mention with her notable darkly comedic talents. Her poise and elegance as she directs the artists to worship an idea—pretending to be grocery shoppers, and pushing around imaginary carts got a great laugh out of me. None of the cast feels wasted, as each is adequately utilized within the production.
The film is situated more in dark comedy with elements of horror. Strickland’s comedic sensibility focuses on the absurdity of the elite and the idea of artistic integrity and vision. There are scenes of the artistically inclined talking with the collective about their processes and the meaning behind them. Along those lines, the horror elements aim to unnerve the viewer, with one scene involving a specific medical procedure doing the trick for me.
Flux Gourmet builds up our appetites, but not in a traditional way. Between the notable sound design, costumes, and acting, there are plenty of hearty bones to chew on. Every bite that Strickland feeds us is incredibly enjoyable. It easily stands out as one of Shudder’s more compelling offerings and is perfect for expanding our horror palettes.
Flux Gourmet premieres exclusively on Shudder on September 15, 2022.