Eating others is a family affair in Fresh Meat, a black comedy from New Zealand about a boarding-school lesbian, Rina (Hanna Tevita), who, returning to her suburban home, discovers that her Maori parents and sibling have become unrepentant cannibals. The reason for this new diet is father Hemi’s (Temeura Morrison) wacko-religious belief that feasting on human flesh will make him immortal, though his celebrity-chef wife, Margaret (Nicola Kawana), and youngest son, Glenn (Kahn West), mainly seem driven by the thrill of the kill and the taste of homo-sapien meat. Rina is downright horrified by the revelation that her relatives have gone insane, but their newfound fondness for killing comes in handy when a gang of criminals, having just broken a cohort out of police custody, decide to take them hostage in their home. Led by Gigi (Kate Elliott), a shotgun-wielding badass in a tank top and skimpy jean shorts, the felons soon become prey to their captives, a dull-edged twist that’s about as funny as everything else in director Danny Mulheron’s film, which wrongly assumes that the sight of goofballs being strung up in a basement slaughter room or being forced to eat testicles by well-to-do middle-class psychos is the height of outrageous hilarity.
Mulheron opens with the sight of Rina soaping up a fellow classmate in the shower and then segues to her biting the crotch of a kidnapper dressed in a bra and panties, all before Rina gawks lovingly at eventual lesbian soul mate Gigi washing pepper spray out of her eyes by pouring milk all over her face. This sexualized mayhem is presented in a cartoonish manner meant to make the nastiness of Dad’s butchery more amusing than terrifying. Yet despite Morrison’s vigorous performance as a paterfamilias in search of invincibility no matter the cost, Fresh Meat’s one joke—that, whether it’s Rina or her family, everyone is interested in munching on someone else—gets tired almost as soon as it’s introduced, and subplots involving Hemi’s jealousy of Margaret’s success, and Glenn’s desire to please his father, simply help pad out a story that, dramatically and comedically, is as thin as they come. Rina’s heritage is mined for lame humor when a persistent suitor tries to impress Hemi with his knowledge of Maori culture, while gratuitously gruesome decapitations and dismemberments seek to please the gorehounds. Devoid of any serious satire or inspired silliness, however, the monotonous film proves to be just a stale R-rated sitcom.