This week I stepped away from the frights of monsters and demons with something a little more earthbound. I’m talking cannibalism. Cannibalism has existed as long as humans have existed. You can find it in myths and folklores. It was part of rituals. Cannibalism has imprinted itself in our history expanding out west. Most famously the Donner Party. This state even has its own infamous character in Alfred Packer; perfectly known as the Colorado Cannibal (Packer was the inspiration for Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Cannibal! The Musical.).
Society looks down upon such acts and views it as something primitive and primal. We perceive ourselves as on top of the food chain so eating another human is taboo. And we definitely don’t eat our pets (that is, unless you live on a farm). When you read about a man gruesomely murdering his significant other in the news, you might pause for a moment, but if you read that the man cooked up the heart of his victim and ate it that suddenly changes the whole ball game. This I find peculiar. Why is it the eating of human parts that sets us off and not just the horrible murder?
Yet we’ve collectively cheered on a fictional cannibalistic anti-hero (Seriously, we need another season of Hannibal or a movie..) Humor can also be found in such situations. Hannibal Lecter charmed us with the gallows humor of his particular tendencies. I can’t help but smile when I think about the pickled penises in Jeffrey Dahmer’s fridge. Maybe it’s the alliteration? Maybe it’s that pickles are phallic looking? Or that penises are weird and funny looking in general? I honestly don’t know. What Dahmer did was horrifying but that term has been stuck in my head since I was a kid, and it’s probably never going away. Perhaps it’s just my brain dissociating from the gruesome facts.
There’s probably no smooth segue into this but I decided to pair this French film I reviewed with a beer that had the characteristics of a red wine. Red wine goes famously with red meat. And if I was to hypothetically dabble in cannibalism I’d most likely want to cook whatever it is I was going to eat. Like a nice juicy steak. One that’s a little pink, and perhaps a little bloody, on the inside? My first thought was something aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, but I couldn’t find anything locally. But have no fear, I did find something. Would it resemble a nice Chianti or something else?
Oak and Orchard Syrah: The Basics
- Brewery: Epic Brewing Company (Denver, Colorado)
- Style: American Wild Ale (with fruit adjuncts)
- ABV: 8.5%
Oak and Orchard Syrah: The Details
The Syrah grape is one of the world’s most planted grapes. It has spread from France to Australia and the United States. While the wine produced from the grapes goes by Shiraz in Australia (it’s important to pronounce with an Australian accent and emphasize the second syllable), winemakers here tend to go by the French name but have the New World characteristics of a Shiraz. These wines have notes of blueberries, blackberries, cassis, spice, and chocolate with high levels of acidity and tannins. These wines go very well with roasted, grilled and smoked meats.
Oak and Orchard Syrah is aged in oak barrels with blueberries, boysenberries, and black currants. It’s quite admirable how close this comes to a wine without using wine-specific barrels.
When I poured the beer into my glass I noticed how lively it was as the head formed, but just like that, it was gone. There was barely any lacing to take note of. The color was reminiscent of a light Pinot Noir. It had a purplish red that was somewhat hazy. Around the edges, there was some clarity where I could see my fingers as I ran them alongside the glass. The nose had a tartness of dark berries with some oak, and was a little earthy and funky.
The oak characteristics really shined through on the taste. There were notes of vanilla and a touch of leather. I got a good amount of boysenberry and black currants that made this a jammy beer. A little sweetness but not too pronounced. There was also a hint of mustiness to it. The tartness doesn’t really hit until it gets to the back of the tongue where you also get some of the alcoholic burn and peppery notes.
The mouthfeel is quite thin, and there is very little carbonation. It is in the aftertaste where you experience the feeling of tannins from a full-bodied wine like a Syrah. Drinking this beer is akin to enjoying a wine, only with a touch more acidity (and light carbonation).
- Director: Julia Ducournau
- Genre: Drama/Horror
- Total Running Time: 1hr 39mins
- Rating: R
- Availability: Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes
At the turn of this century, there was a wave of French films that shocked moviegoers. These transgressive films came to be known as the New French Extremity movement. This movement was part art house and horror, and has been described as “cinema of the body.” Despite the trappings of American exploitation film and several horror subgenres (body horror films a la David Cronenberg or slasher flicks), these films had something to say socially and/or politically.
During this time I thought the French filmmakers were doing something above and beyond in the horror genre than what the Americans were doing (Around the same time the Japanese were also having a strong output.). Some of the notable horror films coming out of France at this time were High Tension, Inside, Martyrs, Irreversible, Frontier(s), Mutants, and the French-speaking Belgian film Calvaire (this scene always makes me laugh and gives me the creeps). I highly recommend checking some of these out, but some of them are not for the weak of heart.
It had been quite some time since a French horror film blipped on my radar until Raw started making a name for itself at festivals in 2016 (Cannes, TIFF, and Fantastic Fest). Raw is the directorial debut for Julia Ducournan, and it is an impressionable one. It tells the story of vegetarian (and virginal) Justine (Garance Marillier) following in the footsteps of her parents and older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf) into veterinary school. The elder classmates, and Alexia, come off as anarchist punks (the music kind) who torment the first-year students through habitual hazing. On the first full day, they douse them in blood and force them to eat raw rabbit kidney.
The eating of the rabbit kidney is the catalyst for Justine’s insatiable craving for raw meat and eventually human flesh. The jump to desiring meat is full tilt and quite jarring in a bad way. There’s no build up to it, but from there it progressives smoothly. You can take this film at face value with its tale of cannibalism, but you’d be missing out on the subtext of another tasting of the flesh. Raw is about Justine’s burgeoning sexuality. The more she craves to munch on a body the greater she lusts for one.
There are touches of Cronenberg’s oeuvre in body horror. Justine develops an itchy, painful rash all over her body soon after ingesting the rabbit kidney, in which the school nurse peels off the blistered, dead skin. This film also has a David Lynchian feel to it. Events feel surreal and nightmarish, and at times I was unsure if what was happening was actually taking place or if it was from Justine mentally crumbling under the intense pressure to be like the rest of her family. There are wincing horrors of the cannibal kind, and some from what most likely takes place at a veterinary school.
The film does have some uneven elements from an otherwise strong film. Justine has sex with Adrien, her gay roommate, which involves him fending off her chomping teeth, and then him getting mad at her the following day and declaring how gay he is. He was her confidant and the only other student that took interest in her as a person, but the sex scene didn’t seem to fall in line with the character. Maybe something got lost in the translation? Then there is the ending that tries to tie everything up in a nice little bow. As the scene starts to unfold it becomes pretty clear where it’s heading.
Oak and Orchard Syrah really achieves what it set out to do by replicating a wine without using grapes, grape must, grape juice, or wine barrels. That’s quite admirable. It’s impressive they got these vinous qualities using blueberries, boysenberries, black currants, wild yeasts, and oak barrels. The next best example I can think of is Funkwerk’s Nelson Sauvin, and they used Muscat grape juice.
If you find that you’ve gotten bored with the recommended red ales, porters, and stouts to go along with your steaks, then I would highly suggest you search this beer out. It’s on a rotational release, but I’m sure you can still find some bottles out there. It’s jammy and has a good amount of tartness to go along with any meal with red meat, or on its own.
Raw is a distinctive film for a first time director that will hopefully be getting better and better. When the initial reports from the festivals told of viewers passing out and throwing up I thought I was going to be in for a queasfest. My expectation levels were set high for disturbing images. The hype didn’t match up for me, yet the tone really holds the film up. There is a sense of dread the keeps building from scene to scene. At times it is more of a psychological horror than anything else.
I was going to make a joke about the moral of the story being about never trusting vegetarians/vegans or veterinary students, but I can see why this film has garnered such acclaim. It is a strong horror film with a unique female voice.
Oak and Orchard Syrah was a good pairing for the film. The color of the beer matched well with the bloody images on screen and the tense mood.
And if you don’t get the reference to the title of the post, well, here it is.