Flux Gourmet (UK, 2022)
There’s a reason why I’ve saved Flux Gourmet for the end, like a succulent dessert. As much as I love horror films, reviewing one every day for a month can be a slog. It’s easy when a film is either terrific or terrible, but it can be hard to summon the enthusiasm to write several hundred words about a mediocrity. By the time I get to the end of October, I’m usually more than ready to be done with it all. Capping things off with a film I’m really looking forward to can make all the difference.
I’ve been a fan of Peter Strickland’s work since Berberian Sound Studio some 10 years ago. While his work is often only tangentially horror, it’s usually steeped enough in the genre that I don’t feel bad about including it in the challenge. In Fabric, Strickland’s previous feature, was the highlight of my 2020 viewing, and his segment of the anthology The Field Guide to Evil, which I reviewed last year, was by far the best part of the film. As a result, I have high hopes for Flux Gourmet. Let’s see if it lives up to them.
Flux Gourmet is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK.
Elle di Elle is the self-proclaimed leader of a nameless collective who have recently begun a residency at the Sonic Catering Institute. Here, they practice a strange mash-up of cookery, experimental music and performance art. She has a tense relationship with her colleagues, Lamina and Billy. While they have all openly grown to hate each other, they are trapped in a co-dependent artistic relationship.
Jan Stevens, the head of the institute, tries to guide and shape the group’s work, only to find herself in escalating conflict with Elle. The whole process is documented by Stones, a deeply insecure writer who is plagued with gastric problems. He is treated by the cadaverous Dr Glock, a pompous and manipulative physician who is somehow involved with the institute.
As the residency continues, tensions grow between all the characters. This is exacerbated by a series of attacks from Mangrove Snacks, a rival culinary group who were beaten to the residency by Elle’s collective. With every aspect of the residency growing stranger and more dangerous, is tragedy inevitable?
Flux Gourmet is a comedy above all else, but not a laugh-out-loud one. This is more the kind of comedy whose absurdity is design to discomfort. While only the ending really delves into horror film territory, the complex series of emotions the rest of the story provokes will be familiar to horror fans.
Most of the film’s absurdity comes from the collective’s work. The very concept of sonic catering is the kind of thing we can imagine existing in our culture, but still feels like a dream. Every aspect of the collective’s art is bizarre, from the transformation of cooking into unsettling sounds to Elle’s unhinged performances, naked, screaming and smearing herself in foodstuffs or, apparently, excrement. None of it would be out of place in the world of performance art, but the overall combination is still startling.
Whether or not it’s a deliberate nod, it’s hard not to see something of JG Ballard in Flux Gourmet. Dr Glock, in particular, feels like he could have crawled out from the pages of one of Ballard’s later novels, and the sheer excess and transgression of the artistic world portrayed here would be at home in his weirder pieces.
Flux Gourmet is the first Peter Strickland film I haven’t loved. While I enjoyed it immensely and found plenty to laugh at, recoil from and puzzle over, it never quite transported me the way his other features have. There are moments of high strangeness, but nothing as brain-meltingly weird as, say, the workplace interview scenes from In Fabric or the final act of Berberian Sound Studio.
What we do get is an arch satire of artistic pretension. This may be an easy target, but Strickland brings enough originality that we don’t feel like we’ve seen it all before. Ultimately, a film like this is only as strong as its characters and here the characters are fascinating, flawed oddballs. Their conflicts will be painfully familiar to anyone who has collaborated on any creative venture.
If there is a fatal flaw here, it’s in the resolution. It feels obvious and predictable in a way that Strickland has never done before. While it’s dark, funny and hits the right kind of emotional notes, it’s just too neat to really haunt you after the film is over.
I suppose if Flux Gourmet had been made by any other filmmaker, I’d be singing its praises. Given Strickland’s form, however, it’s just a bit of a let-down. This is a film I’ll have to revisit in a year or two, watching it with tempered expectations. For now, however, I’ll just remain slightly disappointed.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Werewolves Within (USA, 2021)
- Crystal Eyes (Argentina, 2018)
- Super Dark Times (USA, 2017)
- Thirst (Australia, 1979)
- A Ghost Waits (USA, 2020)
- Cemetery of Terror (Mexico, 1985)
- I Came By (UK, 2022)
- 100 Monsters (Japan, 1968)
- Sea Fever (Ireland, 2020)
- Mill of the Stone Women (Italy, 1960)
- Glorious (USA, 2022)
- All the Moons (Spain, 2021)
- Broadcast Signal Intrusion (USA, 2021)
- Incantation (Taiwan, 2022)
- The Gore Gore Girls (USA, 1972)
- Luz: The Flower of Evil (Colombia, 2019)
- Butterfly Kisses (USA, 2018)
- The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (Italy, 1971)
- Saloum (Senegal, 2021)
- The Addiction (USA, 1995)
- Good Madam (South Africa, 2021)
- The Freakmaker/The Mutations (UK, 1974)
- The Long Walk (Laos, 2019)
- Errors of the Human Body (Germany, 2013)
- Eyes of Fire (USA, 1983)
- Caveat (Ireland, 2020)
- The White Reindeer (Finland, 1952)
- His House (UK, 2020)
- Tourist Trap (USA, 1979)
- Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (Sweden, 1922)
- Flux Gourmet (UK, 2022)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!