Serving Up Richard could’ve potentially offered a nasty and voyeuristic catharsis to anyone still nurturing resentment over the fraudulent shenanigans, perpetrated by companies such as Goldman Sachs, that have crippled the American economy in the last few years. Richard (Ross McCall), a former Wall Street player of some kind (the filmmakers are irritatingly vague about the details), is captured by a married couple intent on eating him for an elaborate ceremonial dinner and, imprisoned in a secure cell hidden behind a false wall in the couple’s living room, he must summon his intellectual and physical wiles to negotiate his survival. Everett (Jude Ciccolella), who fancies himself a bookish mystic of some sort, is clearly unswayable, but his wife, Glory (Susan Priver), who seems to be forever teetering on the edge of total emotional collapse, may represent a hope for Richard’s escape.
Cannibalism has always been a reliable metaphor for satirically minded horror films—as in Michel Grau’s recent We Are What We Are. But after a promising entrapment scene that offers some casually eerie narrative details (Everett lures Richard into his garage with an ad for a vintage sports car), the film collapses, lurching awkwardly between a variety of tones and intentions. Serving Up Richard is a broad comedy at times (Ciccolella, in particular, goes wildly over the top), a horror film at others, and even occasionally a tale of spiritual redemption. This schizophrenia kills the momentum and tension required of a tale that’s mostly comprised of scenes of an irritating man sitting in a room.
And the premise’s most obvious potential irony seems to have escaped co-writer-director Henry Olek’s attention: that a manipulative businessman is preyed on by folks who outwardly appear to be the kind of conservative, God-fearing small-towners who’d normally be subject to his professional exploitation. Instead, Olek eventually focuses on Glory’s clear attraction to Richard, another initially compelling idea (Priver has an odd sexual energy, reminiscent of Karen Black and Dee Wallace, that works for the film) that’s ruined by an unforgivably anti-climactic coda that squanders whatever goodwill one might have still been feeling toward the film. Serving Up Richard is ultimately a con itself, promising audiences disreputable vengeance only to deliver forgettable half-hearted pathos.