Food horror is a rather small sub genre in the big puddle of horror films, but one with good potential to shock. Meat Grinder is an aptly named entry in this sub genre, but there's a little more to it than watching a cook grid humans to meatballs. Meat Grinder travels outside the boundaries of its limited genre classification and delivers a more powerful punchline.
The film plays as a mix of Dumplings and Art of the Devil with a little mindfuckery thrown in for good measure. The subject matter ties it closely to Dumplings as it doesn't take long before human meat finds its way into the noodle soup. On the other hand, Meat Grinder is way more direct in its delivery, containing a few scenes perfect for image building and drawing in audiences looking for more Art of the Devil-like Thai horror.
But there is more than meets the eye. Meat Grinder's story centers around Bus, a single mother running a small noodle restaurant. Life is hard and Bus has quite a handful bringing up her daughter, not really helped by her own troublesome childhood. When a dead guy ends up in her restaurant she decides to see it as an opportunity and word about her delicious soups starts spreading. At the same time she has to make sure that her love interest doesn't find out about her ominous occupation. Rather typical horror material so far.
Visually Meat Grinder is quite the treat. The film looks absolutely lush from start to finish, royally showcasing Moeithaisong's talent. He applies quite a few styles throughout the film, all aptly tailored to the mood of the separate scenes. It does detract a little from the story, if that's what you're after, but the high-contrast black & color photography is just too good to pass up. In other scenes color filters, scratches, shaky camera work and anxious editing are added to the equation, but always neatly executed and sprawlingly pretty to look at.
The score too flows well with the film, although there's only one scene where it actually stands out. The track played during the police raid is some genuine electronic music, a rarity even in modern-day film. Acting efforts are also solid, with good performances of all characters central to the main story. Supporting actors can be a bit flaky (referring to the guy that looks like a Thai version of Suet Lam) but are little more than a small blip on the radar.
As the film progresses it becomes more and more apparent how deep Bus' troubles run and how they can all be traced back to her childhood. The story contains quite a few twists and revelations but the film never really presents them as such. They appear as simple parts of the story, posing a possible danger to those who like to judge a film's quality on whatever twist they seem to find within a film's main storyline. While they are most obviously there, they simply aren't part of the main course.
Meat Grinder's strength lies with the excellent mix of ingredients put into the film. Even though the film twists and twirls through several themes, styles and atmospheres it remains centered around Bus' warped mind, grounding the stylistic experimentation into a solid focus. It takes some time to adapt to the film and I feel that many will be put off by its bold approach (the film is not exactly subtle), but I liked it a lot. The horror elements are pleasing, the dramatic angle works and all of it is packaged as a visual feast. More please!