By Josh Reilly B. and George Bate
From Carrie to Get Out to Audition, there have been a fair few entries into the subgenre of ‘romantic’ horror films, but none quite as refreshing (excuse the pun) as Fresh for quite some time. Fresh marks the directorial debut of Mimi Cave, working from a sharp screenplay by Lauryn Kahn. Fresh is an infinitely better experience if you go into it knowing as little as possible. At its bare bones, the film follows a young woman named Noa (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones), who, amidst her struggles in the modern dating scene, falls for a charming man named Steve (played by Sebastian Stan).
Fresh highlights why fans love horror films. This is horror cinema at its most disturbing, timely, and, oddly enough, fun. Director Mimi Cave and screenwriter Lauryn Kahn throw away many of the conventions of cinema we’ve come to expect, which makes Fresh a stylized and gripping film that always keeps you on your toes. For a surprisingly sizable chunk of the runtime, it’s almost entirely unclear what direction the film is heading in. While some may find this pacing frustrating, it positions the audience firmly in the perspective of our lead, making all of the twists and turns that come feel particularly visceral.
Fresh also excels in its excellent demonstration of how horror can (and often is) more effective when it is suggested rather than shown. Disturbing imagery is seldom seen, in favor of an approach that lets your own mind create the horror as the plot unfolds. Screenwriter Lauryn Kahn also demonstrates this approach to horror with a subtle, yet poignant, incorporation of themes related to toxic masculinity and objectifying attitudes toward women. The themes at play here are very much relevant in day-to-day living and, with a sharply written screenplay, brought to life in newly horrifying ways in the film.
All of this wouldn’t work without compelling leads, which, thankfully, Fresh has in abundance. Daisy Edgar-Jones, who viewers may know from television shows such as Normal People, Cold Feet, and War of the Worlds, is perfectly cast as the film’s lead Noa. Edgar-Jones performs so naturally and intuitively, and immediately becomes a protagonist we empathize with and root for. Sebastian Stan plays her counterpart Steve in an equally immersive performance. Stan has had his fair share of excellent performances in projects like I, Tonya, Destroyer, and Pam & Tommy, but this may be his best work yet. From the moment he enters the film, Stan captivates.
Fresh is a surprisingly stylized and poignant entry in the subgenre of romantic horror cinema. Discussing the plot of Fresh is a disservice to the brilliant twists and turns in store, so simply sit back and watch this film knowing as little as possible beforehand. Commanding lead performances from Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan are accompanied by a sharp and mysterious screenplay from Lauryn Kahn in a gripping horror film from Mimi Cave in her directorial debut. Fresh is a film that is equally disturbing, timely, and fun, making it a must watch for horror fans and general movie lovers alike.
Fresh is available for streaming on Hulu March 4.
Images courtesy of Searchlight Pictures and Hulu