Search

Review: Fresh



Writer Lauryn Kahn and director Mimi Cave paint a bleak view of modern app-based dating in Fresh, a new horror satire streaming on Hulu. Taking dead aim at the entitlement straight men can have over women, often treating them like meat, they flip the script and create a fun and thrilling film.


Daisy Edgar-Jones is Noa, a millennial who opens the film experiencing yet another horrible date. She is fed up and for good reason, as one date uses her just to get a free meal. Then she meets Steve (Sebastian Stan) while grocery shopping. He's a doctor and funny and good-looking. You get the sense that Noa is usually on guard but lets it down here because he seems like the first decent guy she has met in ages. She gives him her phone number. For thirty or so minutes, we are watching romantic comedy as Noa and Steve have their meet-cute, go on dates, and eventually they sleep together. Except that early on, a sense of dread creeps in. While Noa is walking to her car she sees a male figure walking behind her. She starts to walk faster and fumbles with her keys, just getting inside her car before she sees that it is a man carrying his newborn. The scene is tense and funny, a combination that Fresh rides for the whole film.


Noa's best friend Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs) warns her that Steve seems too good to be true. She points out how weird it is he isn't on social media. However, Noa is falling for him and so she agrees to go on a weekend getaway. After a drugged cocktail, she realizes Steve isn't who she thought he was and finds herself chained and locked in a room. Fresh then rolling its opening credits, splitting the movie into two distinct parts. The rom-com intro reveals itself to be more sinister as we see how calculated Steve has been from the moment they met over grapes.


Stan sells the transformation wonderfully. He is consistently frightening as he reveals what a sociopath he is. The film also opens up to paint a larger picture of male privilege and abuse over women. Mollie moves from "concerned friend" to leading the second half as she searches for Noa. Gibbs is riveting as she uncovers a dark web of perversion. Edgar-Jones brings a smart, cunning nature to Noa. She may be a victim but she never stops fighting the situation she finds herself in. The film moves to a satisfying crescendo that brings the film's empowerment themes into full focus.


Where Fresh misses the mark is some of its humor and the slow-burn pacing. While some moments are clever and have a wicked sarcasm to them, others are over the top. There is a montage to an 80's tune that is both tonally off and too reminiscent of American Psycho. While Fresh is constantly engaging, it does feel like it could be tighter. A more aggressive pace may have sustained the horror elements for longer. You can feel the film build, then plateau, and then ramp up for the finale.


Fresh is best when it is gross and sinister. It works best as a thriller of empowerment than a body horror film. It could have been both but I still admire the big tonal shift it pulls off, the great performances, and the film's viewpoint on systems of abuse. Fresh is a potent cocktail but it could have been a full meal, just be sure of what you are eating.


3.5/5