Fresh (dir. Mimi Cave, 2022) – Noa’s dating life takes a turn when she learns about her new partner’s unusual appetite.
Ask any woman about her online dating experiences, and you are bound to hear more than a few horror stories. Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) has had her fair share, which might explain her eagerness to jump at her chance at love when she meets a seemingly decent man – Steve (Sebastian Stan) – in real life.
After all, their meet-cute in a supermarket aisle feels like the perfect set-up for a happily ever after. That is even if her best friend Molly (Jojo T Gibbs) calls red flag on his suspiciously quick moves and absence of online presence. Is it possible that Steve may be hiding something more? By now, any discerning viewer would be nodding along to Molly’s doubts.
Far from its ostensible love story, Fresh is made neither for the starry-eyed nor the faint-hearted. Steve’s terrible secret is a gnarly one, best uncovered by the second. Mimi Cave’s directorial debut takes its awaited turn the moment Noa agrees to a weekend getaway. As Noa starts to feel woozy from a drink, Steve soon sheds his nice-guy façade and unsheathes his cold smile. She awakes hours later, horrified to find herself shackled at the mercy of Steve, who reveals his disturbing plans to put her up on sale – piece by piece.
The demented ploy appears to be as much business as it is, pleasure for Steve. He appears to indulge in the meat that he sells, cooking up a storm that would make Hannibal Lecter smirk. None of his pre-meal butchering takes place on-screen in graphic detail, but all it takes is a little imagination to feel your stomach churn.
Mimi Cave’s horror show is as gruesome as it sounds, yet her impressive directorial debut has plenty of dark humour to offer on the side. It works in large part due to Sebastian Stan, who plays the amoral psychopath to perfection with both charm and darkness in balance. The mental anguish he inflicts brings more unease than physical gore can, though the latter is in no short supply. He shares excellent chemistry with co-star Daisy Edgar-Jones, who shines as both partner and adversary.
It is absolutely thrilling to watch the pair in their unending mind games, where the scales are tipped to the favour of neither. While fear gets the best of her at the start, Noa gradually earns credibility in her mettle to best her captor, who proves no easy opponent. Her defiance and his persistence result in a carefully choreographed dance with no telling how it would end.
Through all of their unpredictable moves, the suspense never lets up. For those with the stomach for the rest of what’s coming, the inevitable blood feast serves up more than a few surprises in wait, along with a bloody satisfying final course.
Unflinchingly disturbing and darkly funny, Fresh cuts into a twisted bad romance that is far meatier than its set-up implies.
Fresh is now on Disney+.