Sundance Horror Film ‘Fresh’ Is Gross, Depraved and Boring
You’d be forgiven for assuming that a movie starring Daisy Edgar-Jones (the star of the “Normal People” sex scene) and Sebastian Stan (a man who doesn’t own a shirt) would be a hot-blooded romance.
But “Fresh,” which premiered in the “Midnight” section of the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday and hits Hulu on March 4, will more likely have you screaming than sending you running for a cold shower.
The title doesn’t describe the movie very well. “Fresh” is a familiar and somewhat successful horror film in the socially conscious mold of “Get Out.”
There are shocks and suspense. When the twist – which won’t be revealed here – happened, I let out a loud expletive. It’s the most thrilling (and disgusting) moment in director Mimi Cave’s film. A few scenes after almost made me lose my lunch. And then the next hour unfolds like a recovery exercise.
Noah (Edgar-Jones) is a typical twenty-something who hates modern dating, and how carefully crafted Tinder profiles can obscure the fact that someone is actually a jerk or a pervert. So imagine her happy surprise when an attractive man named Steve (Stan) chats to her in the produce aisle of the supermarket. Soon, they have an appointment in a restaurant and discuss.
” Where do you come from ? “, he asks.
“The East Coast,” she replies.
There are plenty of such vague and boring exchanges in Lauryn Kahn’s screenplay. Noah is suspicious, all right, but it’s utterly unbelievable that Steve doesn’t ask a follow-up question — “Where?” — considering the East Coast includes both Savannah and Manhattan.
She also says she has no siblings, her father is dead, and she doesn’t know where her mother is. After only two dates, Steve wants to take this totally alone woman for the weekend to a surprise location. There are more red flags here than the Soviet Union.
The couple jump in the car, and in Noah’s case, it would be best to drive over a cliff.
His experience is excruciating, and I suspect some viewers – lured by an appealing horror movie on Hulu – will turn him off once they find out what this monster is really up to.
The film shares a cinematographer, Pawel Pogorzelski, with “Hereditary” and “Midsommar.” His sense of style and ominous color palette are there, put to good use only in a much less shrewd film.
Edgar-Jones, I’m happy to report, is just as vulnerable and witty when handed a campy thriller with mediocre writing as she is in the sublime “Normal People” miniseries. which earned her a Golden Globe nomination in 2021. Even at her worst, we believe she is capable of changing her circumstances. And Stan gives his charm a demented twist reminiscent of Christian Bale in “American Psycho.” Only much more disgusting.
However, as nauseating as it is, “Fresh” is very worn. If you’ve seen “Get Out” and “Promising Young Woman”, which is basically a mix, “Fresh” will have you craving something meatier.