After its initial release at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Mimi Cave’s directorial debut “Fresh” hit Hulu on March 4. The film is an interesting mix of genres, and while it can be considered horror, it also reads as satire; if not for its cannibalistic twist, it may have played out like a rom-com.
The film opens with Noa, played by “Normal People” star Daisy Edgar-Jones, on the hunt for something more than what swiping right on dating apps can offer. Sick of small talk, unsolicited pictures and icky first dates, Noa desperately wishes for something more. The film suggests all online dating does is treat pools of women like meat markets.
But, all that changes when Noa finally gets her meet-cute through an impromptu conversation at the grocery store. Steve, played by Marvel’s Sebastian Stan, wins her over with some awkward lines about cotton candy grapes and their relationship blossoms from there.
“Fresh” offers a critique on a world very reminiscent of Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” — it gets your hopes up, before violently yanking them away. A common theme is the notion of a “nice guy;” why is it that we consider men who do the bare minimum to be so compelling?
And thus, Noa’s weekend getaway with Steve goes horribly awry. Turns out, there’s an actual market for fresh female flesh, and Steve has lured Noa into his den to be a part of it.
Cave, known for her music video direction, has done an amazing job translating her skills into a feature-length film. “Fresh” has truly incredible cinematography, starting with its visuals of food. It begins innocently enough, with zoomed-in shots of Noa crunching on some cheese puffs or grapes. But, of course, these close-ups quickly become sickening as the food source changes.
Unlike some previous images of cannibalism in media, like Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter,” characters in “Fresh” are not unaware participants but relish in the taste of human flesh.
Though “Fresh” doesn’t have jump-scares or the traditional gore found in horror films, it is not for the faint of heart. Even though what is on camera is not actual human meat, the thought that it very well could be makes the film all the more nauseating.
Outside of food, the setting, warm lighting and strange close-ups of Noa and Steve’s hypnotic dancing all give the movie a very eerie feel.
While visually appealing, the story could have gone deeper into Steve’s past and the origins of his cannibalistic tendencies. While the side characters leave something to be desired, there is no denying the comic relief they provide. One friend abandons his rescue mission after pulling into the driveway of Steve’s secluded workshop, fully aware of the horror movie tropes signaling his life was at risk.
Ultimately, “Fresh” is a great option if you’re looking for something that likely won’t bring out blood-curdling screams, but will still send chills down your spine.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars