Directed by: Mimi Cave
Premise: A young woman (Daisy Edgar-Jones) meets a handsome and charming doctor (Sebastian Stan). A weekend vacation goes sideways when the doctor’s sinister secret is revealed.
What Works: Fresh is a horror picture that gives traditional gothic storytelling a contemporary twist. The movie is self-aware but not in an obnoxious way. The filmmakers apply a feminist approach to the concept of the woman held captive by a monster. Instead of a man coming to rescue her, the captive woman must use her wits to save herself. The picture has a distinctly female point of view in the way it frames its central character and how she navigates a world that is hostile to women. The complexities of male-female interactions are central to Fresh and the filmmakers stage scenes in ways that highlight how women must conscientiously gauge their expressions so as not to anger men and put their own well being at risk. This idea is dramatized effectively in Fresh and it allows the movie to be mordantly funny. The humor of Fresh complements the horror. The jokes are awful in a way that creates a discordant tone which enhances the scares. The humor works largely due to the lead actors. Daisy Edgar-Jones plays her character as the protagonist of a romantic comedy who has been stuck in a horror picture and Edgar-Jones sells this woman’s desperation and terror but she also has moments of absurdist comedy. Sebastian Stan is sufficiently charming and credibly violent and he plays the role broadly. His choices keep the film unpredictable. Fresh also possesses an interesting cinematic style. The opening of the picture uses the warm lighting found in adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels but when the tone of the story changes so does the visual style. Sound is also used effectively. The soundtrack includes wet and crunchy cues that have a gory effect. The movie isn’t actually that bloody but the audio track creates a feel of violence and viscera.
What Doesn’t: Fresh has some obvious continuity errors and implausible action. The characters suffer serious and debilitating injuries but the film plays fast and loose with the consistency of their wounds. These people are hobbling one moment and running and fighting the next. This inconsistency is common in action pictures and some slasher films and it’s never enough to ruin Fresh but it does detract from the believability. Body horror is rooted in visceral biological reality and the filmmakers miss opportunities to exploit the character’s injuries in ways that would increase the horror and the tension.
DVD extras: On Hulu.
Bottom Line: Fresh is an entertaining and thoughtful horror picture. The filmmakers skillfully manage comedy and horror within a smart and incisive take on male-female relationships.
Episode: #900 (May 8, 2022)