A movie like Fresh wants to have its cake and eat it too. It wants to be appetizing for true horror friends but wants to add some spices of black comedies. It could have worked best if it knew how to mix the ingredients just right, but in the end, we get a casserole of horror subgenres.
To continue you further, this review will contain what some might think are spoilers, but there’s no way to review it without first letting you do a little wine testing of the story. The appetizers is more enjoyable as the main course.
In this case, we get a nice hoer d’ouevres as we meet a young woman, Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) going on an awful first date at a Chinese restaurant with a rotten pig Chad (Brett Dier) insults her with vulgarities when she tells him there isn’t a spark for a second date. Later, while doing some grocery shopping, she meets a charming man, Steve (Sebastian Stan) who more or less begins talking to her about cotton-candy flavored grapes.
The two hit it off and eventually go on many dates. Of course, anyone who’s every seen a horror/thriller knows any time two characters meet in a supermarket, it’s never a good idea. And just like a good predator, Steve knows how to stalk his prey. Director Mimi Cave and writer Lauryn Kahn make good use of food and scenes of people eating. The movie reminded me of the 1989 black comedy horror movie Parents which starred Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt as the idealistic 1950s nuclear family who seem to have an abundance of meat products they consume at every meal.
Now, spoilers ahead. Noa and Steve decided to go away for the weekend despite the advice of her friend, Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs). Steve drives Noa out to his luxury home in the woods where he pours them a drink. But, Noa quickly passes out as it’s obvious that Steve has spiked her drink. When she comes to, he tells her that he runs a business where he sells human flesh to people all over the world at top dollar.
It’s here where the story goes stale after a great send-up. This is why your parents told you not to eat your dessert before you meal or how a snack can spoil your dinner. What could’ve been a nice foray into body horror ends up being a disappointment. Noa finds that she’s one of many people Steve has romanced and later drugged in hopes of chopping them up and selling them.
Just like the Chinese restaurant Noa was at in the beginning, the proprietors are trying to reach a more general audience than giving us the true cuisine of their culture. Noa is placed in a locked room by herself where she talks to another prisoner, Penny (Andrea Bang) through the walls in another locked room for comfort as they both deal with the pending final time. There’s also the screams and ramblings of another prisoner, Melissa (Alina Maris).
Mollie begins skeptical when she can’t get in touch with Noa and she notices a pic Noa sent of where they’ll be going is off a travel site in another location. It’s here where the movie takes another turn that asks too many questions but doesn’t answer. We learn more about Steve but the more we learn about it, the less it seems the movie becomes scary.
Why does Steve do why he does? Greed? Why does he just go after women? Why not men? Is he scared to lead men on the way he does women? You get the sense Steve felt he was wronged once and now uses this as a way to get back at women and make a good living. I won’t give it away but just to say Steve leads a double life that only seems to lead to making the climax more believable. As for the climax itself, it’s too long and overdone. Pardon the pun, but they put too much on their plate. And even though it tries to have a satisfying conclusion, it leaves a plot hole wide open.
The young Edgar-Jones does make Noa a very sympathetic woman who we care for. The whole movie works on her performance. Cave and Kahn spend a lot of time early making her an unfortunate casualty of the modern dating scene.
And Stan seems to be on a roll in playing creepy characters. After his not-too-likeable role as Tommy Lee in Pam & Tommy and villainous role in The 355, it’s easier to find him believable as a sleazy killer who knows how to sweettalk women. I even think his role as Bucky Barnes in the MCU is more of an anti-hero. I know he doesn’t want to be typecast but he could be this generation’s J.T. Walsh but more GQ.
But at almost two hours, this movie has been overcooked by a half-hour of materials that could’ve been cut or adjusted. Parents clocked in at 81 minutes with credits and I think that was right. Also, that movie was more set in how it portrayed the consumption of meat, even if it’s human flesh, as a sign of being a Red-Blooded American This could’ve been a better movie if it was only an hour and a half. The performances of Edgar-Jones and Stan keep this movie together and there’s a hint that even though he wants to cut her up and sell her off piece by piece, Steve may have really fallen in love with Noa.
And that’s where this movie misses a good opportunity for social commentary. We still live in a society where men in 2022 in this country still view women as property instead of equals. The notion that Steve will keep his female prisoners alive longer as they are nice to him and behave accordingly reeks of Incel mentality. Also, there’s an almost 17-year age difference between Stan and Edgar-Jones. Some older men like younger women because they can control them or think they can. Steve only likes the women he can control and who obey him.
There’s a rawness here that Cave, in her first directorial debut, never gets to the barebones. As a schlocky horror movie, it works okay. And while it’s nice to see more women filmmakers and writers doing thrillers and horrors than yet another adaptation of Little Women or some silly romcom, this movie needed some more prep work.
It is still filling enough for a good two hours of mindless entertainment. The wonderful start as we’re introduced to the characters make us thirsty for more and Steve’s character getting what’s coming to him is the icing on the cake.
What do you think? Please comment.