Henry Olek’s directorial debut, "Serving Up Richard" is set to open in New York and L.A. this September and while throngs of horror fans will undoubtedly be drawn to the promise of a cannibal horror story shot with the gloss of a Hollywood production, they may find themselves still hungry after the main course. That’s not to say that this is a bad film or one lacking in the technical competency department, but it has that unmistakably "made-for-TV" feel to it which means the scenario of the picture is never carried out to its full potential.
It also doesn’t help that the plot isn’t terribly original.
"Serving Up Richard" follows its titular character as he moves to L.A. following some shady circumstances at his old job on Wall Street. As he’s now a full-fledged citizen of the "City of Angels," he’s on the hunt for a car. After answering an ad for a vintage Mustang, he finds himself the latest victim of Everett and Glory, a pair of well-to-do, highly educated, cannibals. Before you can say, "Ruggero Deodato," Richard wakes up in a padded room where he is subject to daily feedings (presumably to fatten him up for dinner) as well as lectures from Everett, who wouldn’t you know it, is a shaman. Then for some bizarre lack of logic, Everett decides to leave his wife Glory (who’s expressed feelings for Richard) alone with the man for six weeks while he goes away on a business trip. With Everett out of the picture, Richard sees this as his opportunity to woo Glory over to his side and help set him free.
As I said before, this isn’t a bad film. It’s very well-made with extra points going to the cinematography and especially the sound design. The performances are all quite good with Susan Priver delivering a memorable one as Glory. Her face paints a picture of madness but also of that one innocent spark waiting for someone or something to set her free from her circumstances in life.
I suppose my main issue is that the film isn’t terribly original. "Serving Up Richard" sort of comes across as a torture porn episode of "Dallas" or another equally soap-opera from the ’80s. It also doesn’t help that the film is entirely set in one location. While that’s not always a problem (see "Reservoir Dogs" or the more recent "Sushi Girl"), when you have sequences that play more or less the same one after another, it becomes rather monotonous for the viewer. Perhaps this may have worked better as a play?
I also thought there was a bit of a missed opportunity here. Richard is an ex-Wall Street player and at some point in the film we see him looking at a book about "karma." Perhaps "Serving Up Richard" could have been better constructed if it was written as an allegory for the whole "Occupy Wall Street" movement where the people holding him captive were somehow related to the employees who got screwed over by Richard’s company. Granted, it would be a very topical thing to do, but the best genre films are the ones that tackle mainstream political issues and bury them cleverly within the context of an exploitation movie.
As it stands, Henry Olek only seems to be going for a meat-and-potatoes approach to genre filmmaking here and it’s an approach that’s sadly very stale.