“Fresh” (2022) – “She’s fresh. Fresh. Exciting. She’s so exciting to me. She’s fresh. Fresh. Exciting. She’s so inviting to me, yeah.” – “Fresh” (1984) by Kool & the Gang
According to Google, the definition of fresh is “food recently made or obtained; not canned, frozen, or otherwise preserved,” and “not previously known or used; new or different.”
After experiencing director Mimi Cave’s wild, cannibal horror flick, probably 99 out of 100 moviegoers will declare that “Fresh” is the perfect title for this film, especially after reminders of the aforementioned Kool & the Gang lyrics and Google definitions.
(The one outlier? That person would perhaps state that “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (2020) is a flawless label for the Borat sequel.)
Wait, a cannibal movie? Why “Fresh”? Let’s set the table without giving too much away.
Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) – a personable, attractive 20-something – is single and copes with a semi-rotten dating life. Well, it’s almost nonexistent, but we comically suffer and sympathize with her on a lousy date, one for the ages. She also scans through bad and worse choices on her Puzzle Piece app that resembles Tinder or Match.
Where are all the good men, she wonders? Apparently, they appear during late-night trips to the grocery store. She runs into Steve (Sebastian Stan), a witty, striking 30-something, who starts a conversation, makes her laugh, and gets her number. Steve seems like a great guy, but there’s a catch, of course.
He eats people.
Our young heroine discovers this fact in the most unappetizing and frightening way.
“Fresh” is a surreal, startling story that doesn’t rely on jump scares or gimmicks. Cave and screenwriter Lauryn Kahn conjure up a woman’s worst nightmare, and it’s not necessarily that Noa’s new boyfriend chews on human flesh. That simple, unfathomable fact certainly exists, but Noa makes a flippant – and seemingly safe – choice in a dating partner, and now, she faces suffocating consequences.
There’s a reason why the 1984 television movie “The Burning Bed”, starring Farrah Fawcett, was seen by millions of American women and discussed for years (and decades) later.
Noa isn’t safe.
To help break the consuming dread, Cave sprinkles in moments of reprieve, including just about every scene with Noa’s best friend. Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs) is her constant voice of reason and acts as a friendly, firm, and needed conscience.
Steve doesn’t have an Instagram account. Mollie immediately responds with, “That’s a red flag.”
Noa is in trouble, and Mollie is her one flesh and blood lifeline, and we – the audience – grasp onto her and Gibbs’ engaging performance like a life preserver in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle.
In her first big-screen lead role, Edgar-Jones is quite convincing as a vulnerable, everyday lady who finds herself in quite the pickle. Noa needs to lean on her inner strength, perseverance, and knowhow to return to singlehood and a normal life. Meanwhile, Stan chews up the screen as the disgusting, duplicitous dude whose frightening existence meets a surreal 80s soundtrack with songs like Animotion’s “Obsession” (1984) and a couple of other well-chosen picks. Nicely done.
These musical overlays offer some morsels of normalcy but then again, not so much, as “Fresh” triggers uncomfortable memories of the “Sister Christian” scene in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” (1997).
Cave and Kahn mix in some spooky shades of “Ex Machina” (2014) and “Get Out” (2017) in their devouring, hold-on-tight horror film. Certainly, “Fresh” caters to a female audience in big, blatant ways but also with subtle moments too, including the dreaded line “Come on. Give me a smile.” Still, this film is for everyone with a strong stomach, but it’s probably not a first-date movie. Definitely not, but bring a BFF, a group of pals, or a partner who you know very, very well and who your Mollie has completely vetted.
Geez, dating in 2022. What a mess.
⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Directed by: Mimi Cave
Written by: Lauryn Kahn
Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jojo T. Gibbs, and Dayo Okeniyi
Runtime: 114 minutes
Image credits: Searchlight Pictures