A motley group of restaurant employees are taken hostage and tortured by the a trio of cannibals that really know their pop culture references in Gravy, the latest in a mild run of horror comedies to get released in the last few weeks. What separates this one from the others is its eclectic cast, and its overwhelming desire to be as quirky as quirky can be. But in its mad rush to be odd, it often forgets to be entertaining, and in doing so remains stubbornly one note for most of its running time. But the cast give it their all and in the end, Gravy does score some brownie points in its favor to warrant a recommendation.
Gravy opens with a man named Aaron (Michael Weston), stopping in at a convenience store and seeming to make a love connection with the clerk, Bethany (Sarah Silverman). The dialogue in this opening scene might be described as “Tarantino-esque” by some, and while they might have a point – I found it quick and snappy. Definitely not the norm for a film where people get eaten by cannibals! After Aaron returns to his car, we’re introduced to his cannibal compadres, his brother Stef (Jimmi Simpson) and his girlfriend, Mimi (Lily Cole). The trio have a genuine chemistry, and the banter between them feels natural and unforced.
From here the film cuts to the restaurant, and we get to meet its employees. Paul Rodriguez is Chuy, the tough, but kindly owner of the joint, Gabourey Sidibe plays security guard Winketta, and Molly Ephraim is Cricket, a gruff waitress. But the person you should be paying attention to is Sutton Foster as Kerry the likable bartender. As soon as she makes her first appearance, you can just tell that she’s been tabbed to be the “Final Girl” of the film. There’s also a French Chef, a boxer and a patron who’s drunk and unconscious in the bathroom. The script (by Roday and James Hartman) takes pains to make sure everyone in the cast gets some face time, they’re not just there taking up space. And while they might be viewed as stereotypical, I thought they added some spice to the proceedings (especially Sidibe). They might not be as fleshed out as our trio of cannibals are, but they’re not throw away characters either.
Once the cannibals get to the restaurant and begin to implement their plan, their personalities become clearer. Aaron is the proponent of the three, he gets the (soon to be) blood soaked ball rolling. Stef is the heart of the trio (and probably the most likable of the trio), And, in a nice change of pace, Mimi is the psychotic one. All she wants to do is kill and eat, and she makes no bones about it either. And once the carnage begins, Gravy doesn’t hold back on tossing the red stuff all over the place, Gravy is gory, gruesome and grisly. The scenes of the trio feasting on human flesh are especially nasty, but director Roday makes the wise decision to let some humor seep into these scenes as well. He does this by having the cannibals force the French chef create fancy meals using the human meat they provide to him. The reactions of the survivors as they watch the cannibals eat their friends are priceless.
But Gravy does have some problems. Every character in the film has some sort of affect, and while that might sound interesting, it really isn’t – it’s annoying as fuck. In a quest to give his characters more personality, Roday makes most of them annoyingly quirky. It works for awhile, but it gets really tired very quickly. And since the identity of the “Final Girl” is obvious from the get go, whatever suspense Roday was shooting for becomes a non issue very quickly. Both of these issues take away a lot of what should make Gravy more entertaining. Luckily, the interaction between Aaron and Stef is both sturdy and believable. The best performances in the film come from the trio of cannibals, with Weston, Simpson and Cole being fully invested in their characters.
Gravy ends pretty much the way you’d figure it would, but that’s not a deal breaker. It is an entertaining bit of nonsense for the most part, and it really doesn’t spare any of the red stuff. I’m pretty sure its quirky vibe will end up making it a cult film as it’s discovered in the next few years. Some very good performances really lift it up from out of the morass it could’ve ended up in. I wish both Silverman and Sidibe had bigger roles in it, this is especially disappointing since they’re both prominently featured on the poster art. Overall, I think Gravy is a great film to watch with a group of friends, with some beer on a Friday night. As a matter of fact, it feels perfectly attuned for just that. You’ll laugh, you’ll be repulsed, and (for the most part) you’ll be entertained. What more can you ask for from a film about flesh eating cannibals I ask?
Gravy (3.5 / 5)