Like its title suggests, Fresh is original and well, a fresh take on genre filmmaking, even if it first, all of it seems like it's been seen hundreds of times before. That's just how first-time director Mimi Cave and first-time writer Lauryn Kahn want everyone to think right before Fresh knocks everyone for a loop in the best ways possible. Mixing some fantastic elements from other movies while standing on its own two feet, Fresh is the most surprising movie of the year with two phenomenal performances from Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones. This is one debut film that knocks it out of the park. Highly Recommended!
It's easy to see the similarities in Fresh with other films like Get Out, Promising Young Woman, American Psycho, and even the TV show Hannibal. Those films do pop up here and there with the horrors of dating, being trapped, '80s music, and a madman, along with some serious culinary exploits that are as decadent as they are terrifying. But perhaps the biggest similarity is to that of Takashi Miike's Audition, where for the first half-hour or so of the film, it plays like a straight romantic comedy that feels real and original.
As Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) has just about given up on dating life, she runs into the handsome and charming Steve (Sebastian Stan) at the supermarket. Through some truly self-deprecating, yet witty pick-up lines, the two hit it off and begin dating. Both Noa and Steve share a wicked love for fancy libations and off-color jokes, where even Noa's protective best friend Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs) even signs off on the relationship. But after this first act of kisses and laughs, the color palette changes and everything goes into sensory overload into true horror as the opening credits show up on the screen like some sort of Gaspar Noe film.
It's at this point where everything changes, from the music to the performances to even the stylistic changes in the locations and sets. The film plays perfectly without going into spoiler territory, but through Cave's direction and the sound design's intense crescendos in the sound effects, it's fairly easy to tell where it's going. And when it reveals all its gooey body parts, it never lets up and is not shy about its gore. But what Fresh does extremely well allows its narrative to marinate in its suspense that's mixed with that super dark American Pyscho-like comedy as Steve loves to play loud pop music and dance to his work. There's a bit of Patrick Bateman to him in more ways than one. The truly satisfying surprises come to form in how the film plays out with its nasty results that spawn from the narrative, and not in the actual reveals and action.
Where Fresh tastes sour is in its final climactic moments of the film where the script loses itself and dives into an over-the-top chaotic frenzy as it doesn't know exactly how to end itself. It's a bit looney, to say the least, while some of the decisions the character makes would have anyone yelling at the screen, even when those said characters actually mention not making those horror movie mistakes they've seen so many times. But by then, the journey is so. thrilling and great, that it never really detracts from the overall process and language of the movie.
This is Sebastian Stan's best role to date yet. He's easily believable as the sweet, charming, funny guy who anyone would want to date, but then that switch is flipped, and he turns into a monster of another world that echos the best traits of Hannibal Lecter and Patrick Bateman, and he seems to have a ball doing it. And Daisy Edgar-Jones is pitch-perfect as she is a great match into Stan's unbridled chaos, as she nails the terror and strength of courage to survive her situation. The set design and use of loud colors are rampant to make its audience uncomfortable, just like Noa. The imagery of Stan's place with its paintings of bodies against bone like stone walls and red-painted rooms tells a story in itself. And even the sound effects of people chewing, eating are enhanced like Park Chan-wook's film Stoker that could make anyone queasy.
Fresh is an absolute blast from start to finish. Stan and Edgar-Jones turn in dynamite performances, and the music and visuals are just plain astonishing. For being a debut movie for the director and writer, Fresh stands tall above the rest and tells a different kind of dark comedy horror movie. Even with its tiny flaws, this incredible movie is Highly Recommended. It's just too bad Fresh won't be in theaters so the thrills and screams from a large audience won't be experienced. Still, being on Hulu exclusively will reach a larger audience and that's the ticket.