Film Review: Serving Up Richard

Do we really need another cannibal movie? A minor mess, <i>Serving Up Richard</i> is almost indigestible.

Directing his first feature, Henry Olek crams several ideas into one small-scale narrative, which he co-wrote with Jay Longshore, another newcomer to theatrical fare. A few moments in the first half of the film suggest a humorous indie riff on the “torture-porn” genre that has glutted the horror market in recent years. Unfortunately, Serving Up Richard falls apart before it ever gets going.

The story’s eponymous anti-hero (Ross McCall) has just arrived in California from New York, where he had been a Wall Street shark. One morning, Richard meets his neighbor, Everett (Jude Ciccolella), and after admiring the man’s car, he finds himself drugged and trapped in a caged room in Everett’s home. Once Richard understands that he is to be sacrificed as dinner, he tries every way he can to escape. Richard’s only hope occurs when Everett leaves on a trip and he is left alone with his remaining captor, Glory (Susan Priver), Everett’s seemingly retiring and dutiful wife.

Richard’s attempt to seduce Glory into giving him the key to the cage ends up a failure. Later, though, after Glory reveals her own feelings of entrapment, both she and Richard engage in shamanistic religious practices in order to liberate each other. Their odd plan begins just as Everett makes his return home and a final confrontation takes place.

Star and executive producer Priver resembles Cher (in a blonde wig), which is only worth mentioning inasmuch as Serving Up Richard recalls another three-character entrapment comedy-thriller, Faithful (1996), although in that film Cher was the captive of a hit man (Chazz Palminteri) who eventually bonds with her character as she tries to escape. Now that there have been so many prisoner and/or cannibal films in the last few years, Serving Up Richard doesn’t seem very original. Even the peculiar touches of mysticism and self-reflexive Hollywood movie references fail to make the story either a social commentary (as with the classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the recent We Are What We Are) or a suspenseful mystery (which was at least attempted with Buried and the first installments of the Saw and Hostel series). In fact, as Richard wears on, it becomes increasingly less interesting or relevant, not even helped by its “twist” ending. If anyone feels more trapped than poor Richard, it will be the poor viewer.