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FRESH (2022)

Release Date: 06/24/22 [Hulu] | Sundance Film Festival '22

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Studio: Searchlight Pictures

"FRESH follows Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), who meets the alluring Steve (Sebastian Stan) at a grocery store and - given her frustration with dating apps - takes a chance and gives him her number."


Fresh is a “fresh” take on the horror genre with a beautiful mix of romance, horror, suspense and (dark, sadistic) comedy. For those with a sour stomach to cannibalism, even though the film doesn’t go as hardcore as I originally expected, the idea implanted into your head from the start may make a relatively squeamish experience. 


The story follows Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a woman who just can’t find any luck with the online dating scene and by happenstance runs into awkward, yet charming Steve (Sebastian Stan) in the vegetable aisle at the supermarket. Things move quickly as for once in her life things seem extremely well-off but soon she’ll find out her boyfriend’s deepest, darkest secret. 


Fresh is a sinister journey as we follow Noa’s fight for survival against a man who manipulated her and has now not only kidnapped her but is choosing to sell her flesh to the highest bidder. There is something so brilliantly stylish about the set design here – Noa’s cage is luxurious yet equally treacherous as she bleeds on the floor after an impromptu amputation. 


Sebastian Stan delivers a career best performance as Steve – he’s conniving and charming – you’re immersed in the couple’s romance so much so that when the unthinkable happens and our lead is drugged, chained and told she is going to be butchered – we feel the dread instantly. Stan is a modern Hannibal Lecter mixed with the emotional manipulation of Bo Burnham’s Ryan in Promising Young Woman (2020).


Daisy Edgar-Jones is an actor to watch – there is no doubt in my mind that if Fresh reaches a wide enough audience - this should be her breakout role. She is daring – she is the final girl if this was a slasher film – her hope may dwindle but as she spends more time in captivity her chances of escape start to grow. We can’t have a final girl(s) without an expected final showdown and Fresh does not disappoint. 


The film's most prominent flaw is with its side characters – the “saving grace” for Noa and the others trapped in their cells: Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs) and Paul (Dayo Okeniyi). Both bring with them success and failure in their search for Noa. By the end the only essential component of a possible escape is Noa herself and the possibility of mentally outsmarting her captor. 


Director Mimi Cave delivers the suspense, the shutters and the all around rage we feel for Noa’s circumstances. Fresh is a largely original horror feature that is almost hypnotic in its elegant direction and brings about the best performance we’ve seen thus far from Sebastian Stan – 2022 may be Stan’s year to explode beyond his Marvel hero persona. 

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