Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… Mari Kornhauser’s Kitchen Privileges.
Kitchen Privileges centers around Marie, an agoraphobic rape survivor living in her father’s old house with a secretive tenant that has a flair for the kitchen and a secretive edge. As she begins to get to know him better it becomes clear that he may be hiding more than just his recipes. She starts to suspect that the disappearances being reported in the local newspaper may be connected to the mysterious tennant with whom she shares her space.
This movie has a lot of problems, but the biggest one is just how painfully boring it is. The pacing is way off and the script seems like it’s stretched a bit too thin. The screenplay tries to build up the relationship between Marie and her tenant by having him be the only understanding person around. Her boyfriend is an asshole to an unreasonable degree, actually getting angry with her for not leaving her house and telling her to “just get over it.” Her sister isn’t much better, offering little to the plot aside from some pointless arguing. The tenant is built up as this lone understanding character that wants to help her and actually cares about her. The problem with this is that it just takes way too long to get to the point. It’s painfully clear that he’s killing people and cooking them in the kitchen really early on, but there’s no tension or scares pertaining to this for the first hour of the film. It instead plays like a crappy Lifetime Original Movie complete with melodrama and bad acting.
When the horror elements actually start to kick in, it feels like the filmmakers realized they only had 20 minutes left and ran through everything at hyper speed. Marie starts to hallucinate out of nowhere (she didn’t do this once during the first hour) and her realization of things that the audience figured out a long time ago falls entirely flat. This is the only interesting part of the movie, but the execution is sloppy and makes the narrative come off as lopsided. There’s no real build to this, it’s like they flipped a switch. The sad part is that this premise could have worked with better direction and a better script. I like the idea of this lone voice of reason in her life slowly being revealed as something tainted, but it needed to be presented in a way that had more flow and didn’t give the audience whiplash. On top of all of this the ending is a confusing mess that may or may not have a twist. It’s hard to tell because of how poorly presented this part is. I’m hoping I’m mistaken about it, because if the twist is what I think it is…it’s actually pretty offensive.
The cast here is alright, with Peter Sarsgaard playing the tenant. He’s probably the best part of the movie, playing the part as both charming and sinister at the same time. You can tell that he’s hiding something, but it’s never so obvious as to be completely over the top. Katharina Wressnig plays Marie and she does an ok job. She’s fairly likable, but when the character begins to go off the deep end or gets really emotional there’s something peculiar about it. She never really manages to sell moments like these. As far as anyone else the acting isn’t the best. Her sister and boyfriend both come across as wooden and unnatural and in a movie that’s trying to be as serious as this one is it’s hard to let that slide.
Kitchen Privileges is not a good movie. It’s obvious and cliche, with pacing that goes from painfully boring to confusing and messy. A couple of decent performances can’t save what is ultimately a poor script and bad direction and I can’t even like this on a “so bad it’s good” level because for most of the runtime nothing happens. On top of all of this, the way the rape survivor angle is played feels poorly handled and in at least one spot offensive. This is something that really needs to be dealt with carefully and tactfully, but unfortunately here it comes across as merely a plot device to keep her stuck in the house and dependent on this strange dude that’s living there. Skip this one.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.