Fresh stars Sebastian Stan (aka the MCU’s Winter Soldier, aka Bucky Barnes) and Daisy Edgar-Jones (Kya from Where the Crawdads Sing). The film narrative focuses on the horrors of modern dating seen through the eye of Edgar-Jones’ character. The film’s description states that her character has a defiant battle to survive her new boyfriend’s unusual appetites.
As I’m writing this, I haven’t seen the film yet. I’ll be writing my review of it as I go, sort of like a reaction video on YouTube, except it’s in the written form. I don’t know how this will turn out, but I thought I would experiment with the idea. Please let me know in the comments if you like this type of review and if so, I’ll do it again.
Without further ado, here we go. Oh, there will be spoilers so if you don’t want to read further, I’ll understand.
***Hi, this is Jim from after watching the movie. I was going to put this at the end like usual, but I thought because of the nature and content of the film, I’d warn you all now before you read on. Fresh is a Fox Searchlight Picture and is Rated R. For obvious reasons. I really can’t recommend this film to anyone that isn’t a diehard fan of the horror genre. If you’re not really into that genre, I don’t even recommend you reading further. ***
It opens with the main character, Noa (played by Edgar-Jones), sitting in her car swiping through some of the choices on her dating app. She’s killing some time before a date. And the date is cringy, by the way. It’s this dude that starts talking about his acid reflux and then after an awkward pause goes straight into how he appreciates how women during their mother’s era dressed. I was pretty shocked at that.
I’ve got to say, from what I know about dating apps and the female experiences on them (I’ve interviewed ladies about their online dating experiences for a writing project), it seems to be pretty accurate. There’s a scene where Noa is perusing her options when a guy messages her. His dating profile picture is of a dog which prompts her to ask about the dog’s name. She gets sent a picture of the guy’s junk as an answer. Ugh. Men are pigs.
During a trip to the supermarket, she meets Stan’s character, Steve. It’s a humorous meeting and Steve seems pretty sweet and innocent. He leaves after getting her number. Their first date is a hit and run.
The chemistry between Edgar-Jones and Stan is great. Their characters really seem to get along and for a moment you forget that it’s a horror movie and that everything will eventually go off the rails.
There’s an odd fascination in this film with focusing on the mouths of Noa and Steve.
About 26 minutes into the 1 hr, 27min film, Steve and Noa decide to go away for the weekend, despite Noa’s best friend, Molly, objecting to it. Especially when Steve says that the destination is a “surprise.” It’s even weirder when Steve suddenly changes the plan by saying that the traffic is expected to be crazy, so they’ll sleep over at his place and then leave in the morning.
As a side note: Is it just me or are films using the Bird’s eye view shot a little too much. This is the fourth film I’ve seen in 2022 that has used this type of shot. Each time they’ve traveled through a forest.
Anyway, they get to Steve’s house later that night. It’s a pretty nice place, but really retro in its design and ambience. Soon enough, Noa finds out that Steve drugged her Old Fashioned and everything’s getting fuzzy. Turns out, Molly was right, and she shouldn’t have gone off with Steve for the weekend.
Another interesting shot is the title card appears for the first time as Steve goes to refill his drink while Noa is passed out on the carpet. Right after that, the opening credits start playing. Guys, it’s 33:22 minutes into this film. That’s odd, but sort of cool.
As the credits are rolling, there’s a montage of the paintings in the house mixed with POV’s of Noa as she’s being carried somewhere. The music at this point is a good choice. One lyric is “How can I tell her/What’s in store for me.” Very creepy, all things considered.
Noa wakes up on the floor with Steve sitting on a chair. He admits that he drugged her. Noa then finds that she’s chained to a spot on the floor. She asks him, “What’s going on?”
Which, you might think would be a stupid question. I mean, Noa goes to an undisclosed location to a house in the middle of the forest and then passes out only to wake up chained to the floor. However, Noa totally trusts Steve so it would be a valid question at the time.
It’s also interesting to note that in the scene where Noa passes out, Steve is wearing a sweater. When Noa wakes up chained to the floor, Steve is wearing a turtleneck. Typically, turtlenecks are a sign of villainy for some reason.
It’s heartbreaking seeing Noa realize what’s happening. Daisy Edgar-Jones does an amazing job in this scene. Stan’s performance as Stan is also great because it serves as the counter to Noa’s breakdown. He’s still the smooth, calm, and nice guy that he’s been throughout the film. That changes when Noa doesn’t comply with Steve’s question of if she’s listening to him. That’s when we see Steve break that good guy facade and shout.
We find out what the movie title stands for. “I’m going to sell your meat,” Steve tells Noa. “The fresher the meat the better.”
Apparently, people pay him to harvest people’s meat, hair, etc. Okay, so, that twist I didn’t see coming and it’s actually a pretty good one. Looking back on the earlier parts of the film, there were those moments when Steve would dare Noa to eat all of the spareribs or if she’d talked to anyone about him. It added to his creepiness, but now it makes sense.
Noa attempts to attack Steve, which results in Steve taking her down and telling her to “stop being so dramatic.”
Sebastian Stan plays a great superhero, but as the villain he excels.
Noa finds out there’s another woman trapped in the house with her. She can speak to her through the vents. The new person, Penny, tells Noa that she was in town visiting when she met Steve. “Now I’m slowly being eaten,” Penny says.
Penny says that there’s another lady named Melissa that’s trapped there as well. Penny says that Melissa has lost her mind.
Meanwhile, Noa’s friend is searching for her. Steve is texting Molly on Noa’s phone and there’s things that are causing Molly to get suspicious.
Okay, another scene starts with Steve dancing to Animotion’s 80’s hit “Obsession” while preparing a human leg. We know it’s from Melissa because he puts a photo with her name on the countertop. The leg looks like an actual piece of meat you’d find at a butcher’s shop. It’s both morbid and funny to see Steve dancing while he goes to work.
HE MAKES CARE PACKAGES! Yes, you heard me right. Steve chops up, tenderizes, seals and packages the leg. He then proceeds to make care packages like HelloFresh or something similar. He also places personal items from Melissa in with the meat. Such items include lingerie, other clothes, her purse, bits locks of her hair.
This is such a crazy film already.
Steve unlocks Noa so that she can take a shower. Some tension building music plays as the two walk up the dungeon stairs and through the house. That’s when Noa takes her shot but is defeated easily. She wakes up on an operation table. Steve removed her butt. Yes, you read that right.
Molly is asking the bar tender that served the two, trying to find out Steve’s name. After a day or so, the bar tender comes through and gives over the name. Molly finds more information on Steve’s real identity. She goes to visit Steve’s real family. Knocking on the door, Molly talks to Steve’s wife. The wife covers for Steve. That’s when Steve enters and asks what’s going on. He denies knowing who Noa is. That’s when Molly decides to call Noa’s phone. It rings and Steve takes it out of his pocket. Turns out the wife is on it too.
There’s a scene where Noa asks Steve what the meat tastes like. Steve replies that it depends on where it comes from and how it’s prepared, but if it’s done right, it’s exquisite. “It’s like nothing you’ve ever had before,” he says.
Okay, so at this point, it’s about 1 hour into the film with another 50 minutes remaining. That’s the midpoint so something’s going to shift for Noa. I’m going to guess, just based on this question, she’s going to taste the “meat” that Steve prepares.
Okay, I know I’ve said that a lot, but there’s another twist. Turns out, Steve’s wife has a leg missing. I’m going to theorize that she was another target that he fell in love with and saved. This is so weird, but I’m really sort of liking all the twists and turns. This means that the wife knows what goes on in that dungeon since she survived it. Meaning that she might be feeling jealous of Noa.
So, I was right. Steve prepares dinner for Noa. She takes in her surroundings upstairs while asking Steve questions about cannibalism. He explains that there’s a whole community of cannibals out there he caters (literally) to. There’s a great shot of the dish being pushed in front of Noa. The camera is right behind the dish with the meat sitting on top of some noodles. You can hear every little sound of the knife cutting into the meat, the juices squishing around.
Noa asks if the meat is from her, Steve says no. Noa picks up her fork and brings it to her mouth. She puts it into her mouth. The camera zooms in on her mouth as she chews. Noa says it’s indescribable. Afterward, they walked back to her cell. Steve says Noa is special because she’s messed up like him.
As Steve walks down the hall, you can see that there’s an internal conflict going on. Sebastian Stan’s acting remains on point here as the camera remains tight on his face. Half of his face is in shadow which confirms that inner conflict. However, that doesn’t stop Steve from entering into a cell and coming out carrying Molly over his shoulder.
Noa forces herself to throw up the $30,000 meal into the toilet.
Steve offers to make dinner for Noa again and gives her a pink dress. It’s such an odd montage of the two characters getting ready for their “date.”
The first course is pate made from Melissa, one of the original girls when Noa was first abducted. They get to talking about the women and that’s when Steve shows Noa the collection of personal items. She spots Molly’s cell phone among the pile of phones.
The next course is breast meat. Yup, that’s right. As they laugh over morbid puns, Noa recognizes that no one has ever cooked meals for her before. She starts breaking down in tears claiming it’s just so confusing. Steve starts consoling her. That leads to them kissing and dancing. It’s reminiscent of their first date. Which then leads to them having sex once again. Except, Noa takes that opportunity to have Steve’s … um… “member” … as dessert. Her mouth covered in blood, Noa grabs Steve’s phone and runs out the door. Steve is shrieking in agony and pain (rightly so). She takes the keys to the dungeon and finds Molly who is still intact (for the most part). Steve breaks out while Noa finds Penny.
The three women attack Steve in the kitchen and tenderize his face with the meat tenderizer. Steve is still up for more action though and focuses on Noa. Penny stabs Steve in the leg, Noa bites his arm, and Molly kicks his face. That kick sends Steve unconscious. The bar tender tracks Molly to the house. The three girls take off into the woods while Steve runs after them with a gun. The bartender hears the gunshot and takes off in his car. The wife also shows up and finds all the blood. The wife hears more gunshots. Molly jumps Steve and the three women start beating him up. Noa has the gun to his face and shoots him.
The three girls separated, Noa going back to get her cell phone. The wife and a bodyguard find Steve’s corpse. The wife doesn’t seem fazed by it. Noa finds her phone but is discovered by the wife. The wife starts crying but is clearly faking as she starts to strangle Noa.
Noa’s about to die when she stabs the wife in the neck with the keys she had taken from Steve. The wife attacks still, but Molly comes out of nowhere with a shovel and kills the wife.
The film ends there with the two girls saying how much they love each other.
I don’t advise watching this while eating dinner. The food preparation alone gave me slight nausea. The soundtrack is really well done. The tension and build up was great and there were moments of comedy that broke it, but then it would start ramping up again.
Again, I can’t stress that the chemistry between the two leads was great. It made me sad that they couldn’t just have a normal life instead of what happened.
This is the directorial debut for Mimi Cave. I can’t wait to see what she does after this film.
Overall, this is one of my favorite films I’ve seen this year. Which, I’m not sure what that says about me… Having gone into this film blind, I was shocked and sickened at times. It’s a great film, in my opinion, but not for the faint of heart.