O Animal CordialI am still shaking from the world premiere of Friendly Beast at the Fantasia International Film Festival.  Friendly Beast is a claustrophobic high-tension reverse home invasion set in the pretense laden restaurant of a small minded Brazilian.  It starts as a dull night with a subdued cast: the petty owner, the flamboyant chef, the drunken late night clientele, and ends steeped in rage and sex fueled blood.  Friendly Beast approaches the greats of the extreme high tension sub-genre of thrillers, almost like Don’t Breathe and maybe even Haute Tension.

Inacio (Murilo Benicio) is the owner of a small restaurant.  He’s badgered by his wife on the phone, he bullies his staff, he talks to himself in the mirror, practicing what he will say as he plots to take credit for dishes from his star chef.  Meanwhile, his staff plan to walk out on the petty tyrant as he forces them to stay late to accommodate drunken and boorish clients.   The waitress Sara (Luciana Paes) is all too eager to do what he says, stays after hours despite her exhaustion, and waits on his every order.  Is it attraction?  Is she merely kissing his ass?  As the head chef Djair (Irandhir Santos) supports a walk-out of the kitchen staff, the tension building between these characters is almost at a breaking point.  As the already lush, character-driven tensions peak, the invasion part of the film starts.  I desperately want to explain just how far the depths of these characters’ limits will be tested, but anything I say would be a pale shadow beside the eruption of violence and lust on screen.

The film doesn’t fully embrace the gore.  Where other such thrillers would devolve into pure blood soaked mayhem, the development of the characters in the first act allows a touch of restraint in the third to remain compelling.  Without the utterly potent performances by Benicio, Santos and especially Paes, this restraint would feel like a cop-out, but fortunately the characters get the space to breathe.  I expected more gore, and in the theater I was ever so slightly disappointed, but reflecting on it now I prefer the character development.

Gabriela Amaral Almeida directs an intimate relationship between viewer and characters, each one is given freedom to explore their own animal intensity.  I must stop: I feel like if I had another few days to mull this over I could give a more nuanced review, but I can’t and I won’t because there is another showing tomorrow (if you’re reading this, today (July 26th)) and so I write this in the desperate hope that at least one of you will get out there.  If you are a fan of thrillers: get thee to de Seve, and if you’re squeamish maybe give it a pass.  This isn’t for the faint of heart, and I can’t wait to hear what fans of extreme thrill cinema have to say about this.


Friendly Beast will show again July 26th at 15:15 at de Seve.