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First-time directors often have a tough time getting out of the gate with their debut feature. For director Mimi Cave, she’s the exception that often proves the rule. ‘Fresh’ is a new horror-comedy that dropped on Hulu on March 4 after getting screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The film was quickly picked up by Searchlight Pictures and given a release on the Hulu platform. The film is anchored by Daisy Edgar James and Sebastian Stan, with stellar supporting roles by Charlotte Le Bon and Jonica T Gibbs.
‘Fresh’: Movie Review
Noa is a hopeless romantic who is about done with the dating scene and tries online dating as a last resort. After yet another failed attempt, Noa finds herself shopping in the produce aisle of the local supermarket. That’s where she finds Steve, a generic-looking man equipt with enough dad jokes to make the BBQ grill master jealous. After a successful first date, the two sleep together and carve a path of a potentially successful relationship. Despite Noa’s friend Mollie’s suspicion of Steve’s lack of social media presence, the former heads for a weekend getaway. While the evening begins like any other, it quickly takes a turn that Noa and the audience won’t expect or forget.
Ending: With Spoilers
Noa ends up passing out at Steve’s luxury home, having been the victim of a poison drink. After waking up in captivity, chained to the ground, Noa finds out that Steve is not who he seems. Steve is actually a butcher, who kidnaps women and sells their body parts to rich cannibal clients. Despite Noa’s efforts to fight back, Steve overpowers her and surgically removes her buttcheeks. During her recovery, Noa becomes friends with another woman held captive named Penny.
As Noa is unable to reach the outside world, Monica digs deeper into her friend’s supposed carefree getaway. Mollie finds out that Steve is actually named Brendan, who has a family with a woman named Ann. Confronting Ann at her home, Mollie is soon knocked out by the man we now know is named Brendan. Ann is revealed to be an accomplice, who helped Brendan in his body harvesting. In a sick game of psychological warfare, Noa tricks Brendan into the idea of an affair. Following their homecooked meal, including human-based meatballs, Noa relaxed Brendan enough to perform oral sex on him. The pleasure is short-lived, however, as Noa bites Brendan’s testicles off. As Noa, Mollie, and Penny unite to escape, they engage in one final and successful battle with Ann and Brendan.
There is something to be said about a film that leads you calmly in one direction before jerking you in another. For the first 33 minutes of ‘Fresh,’ you feel like you are in a romantic drama that is likely going to end up as a possible thriller. But it’s at that 33-minute mark when the opening credits roll, therefore, hinting to the audience that they are in for a ride. Mimi Cave proves to be an untrustworthy director in the best possible way.
The film doesn’t follow a standard horror formula and it’s better off because of it. Sure there’s humor and the premise is over the top, but the characters play the story straight and serious. The horror in the moments is allowed to rise to the top so you cringe with the possibility of being in their shoes. There are some mild pacing issues, and an argument about its cinematic identity crisis, but it all washes away in the end result.
The negative stigma of direct to streaming films is starting to fade, and ‘Fresh’ is a good example of why. Eighty percent of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes are recommending ‘Fresh,’ with 82 percent audiences. The film is something different, and while not everything lands perfectly, it’s safe to say Mimi Cave’s debut film is a breath of fresh air. 4 out of 5.