Fresh (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): I recommend you to watch it fresh (If you are ready)

It is not so easy to tell you what and how “Fresh” is really about. Because its effectiveness mainly depends on a series of twisted surprises popping up along its diabolical plot, I will try as much as possible for avoiding any substantial spoiler, but I sincerely recommend you not to read further if you want to watch it fresh while also being ready to be entertained or repulsed.

The opening part of the movie, which is incidentally around 30 minutes, initially shows its heroine’s rather unhappy status. While she does not hesitate to try any opportunity for romantic relationship via those dating online applications, things have been not that good for Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), and her blind date with some young guy only results in bitter disappointment as she comes to discern what a crummy dude he really is. Besides casually wielding his sexist viewpoint, this prick also insults her in more than once, and that makes Noa wonder more about whether she will have to focus on herself and her life more instead of trying to find any good boyfriend for her.

And then there comes an unexpected surprise for her on one day. While she is doing some shopping at a local supermarket, Noa comes across a handsome guy named Steve (Sebastian Stan), and she soon finds herself smitten with him as they come to talk a bit with each other. When she eventually gives him her phone number, she does not expect much, but, what do you know, he calls her a few days later, and she becomes more attracted to him as they come to spend more time with each other.

However, as her best female friend Mollie (Jonica T. Gibbs) later points out, there is something strange about Steve. For example, he says he is a plastic surgeon working in some hospital, but he is not so specific about where he exactly works, and he does not even use any social media application at all although any successful plastic surgeon is supposed to have an Instagram account for showing off his works at least.

Nevertheless, Noa cannot possibly break up with Steve because, well, he is simply wonderful and charming. Yes, he is surely a bit too good to be true, but she is still helpless in her growing attraction toward him, and it looks like he is also drawn to her a lot. Not long after they eventually move onto the next step of their developing relationship, he suggests that they should go somewhere for having a nice private time together, and she does not mind this at all while feeling more blissful than usual.

Around that point, there are already several bad signs here and there. For example, Steve suddenly changes their plan at the last minute, and then he takes Noa to his residence which happens to be located in the middle of some remote area. The area is actually so remote that her smartphone is virtually useless, and that makes Noa a little nervous even though she remains cheerful on the surface.

Of course, it eventually turns out that Steve has a horrendous intention behind his back, and Lauryn Kahn’s screenplay naturally enters the grim territory of a certain horror exploitation genre. I must warn you that, due to Steve’s unspeakable nature, there are a number of brief but gruesome moments which will make you cringe and wince a lot for good reasons, and you will also come to brace yourself more as often horrified by what our unfortunate heroine will have to endure.

With its heroine’s horrifying ordeals, the movie is quite unpleasant to say the least, but it is also equipped with wit and gravitas at least. While dutifully following its genre conventions, it often wields its own naughty sense of black humor, and that aspect is particularly evident when our heroine must hold herself well in front of a demented offer she cannot possibly refuse. The relationship dynamics between her and Steve is engaging enough to hold our interest, and the movie also pays some attention to several other characters in the story, though I must point out that it could delve more into Steve’s deranged domestic relationship with a certain female character in the story

Above all, the movie relies on the uneasy onscreen chemistry between its two lead performers, who click well with each other right from their first scene and then willingly hurl themselves into the devilish mix of loony humor and stomach-churning horror. While Daisy Edgar-Jones, a British actress who has been more notable thanks to TV miniseries “Normal People”, gives a solid performance which functions as a strong emotional anchor onto which we can hold, Sebastian Stan, who has been demonstrated that he can do a lot more than appearing in those Marvel Cinematic Universe flicks, effortlessly goes back and forth between his character’s demented generosity and demonic nastiness, and several other main cast members including Jonica T. Gibbs, Charlotte Le Bon, and Andrea Bang are also well-casted in their respective supporting roles.

Again, I empathize to you that “Fresh” is definitely not for everyone, but this is a fairly well-made genre product, and director Mimi Cave and her crew members including cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski deserve some praise for presenting its many gruesome moments with enough skill and personality on the screen. Yes, I do not want to see it again soon, but I must admit that it does work as well as intended, so I recommend it with some reservation.

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