|Directed by||Mimi Cave|
|Written by||Lauryn Kahn|
|Edited by||Martin Pensa|
|Music by||Alex Somers|
|Distributed by||Searchlight Pictures|
Fresh is a 2022 American black comedy thriller film directed by Mimi Cave, in her directorial debut, from a screenplay by Lauryn Kahn. The film stars Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan. It is a co-production between Legendary Pictures and Hyperobject Industries; Adam McKay produced the film alongside Kevin J. Messick.
Fresh had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2022, and was released on March 4, 2022, via Hulu by Searchlight Pictures. The film received generally positive reviews from critics.
Noa, a young woman from Portland, is trying her hand at online dating. Noa has become increasingly disillusioned with dates due to the men she interacts with not having general decency. One day at the supermarket, a man named Steve flirts with her and they exchange numbers. On their first date, the two quickly hit it off and have sex. After several dates, Steve invites Noa for a weekend break away alone with him. Against the advice of her best friend Mollie, Noa agrees to the trip. Planning to travel early the following day, Noa spends the evening at Steve's luxury home. Later, the two share a cocktail. Steve drugs Noa's drink and she falls unconscious.
Noa wakes up in captivity, chained to the ground. Steve explains that he is a butcher of human meat, and that he harvests women's body parts and sells them to wealthy clients for consumption. He notes that he will keep her alive as long as possible in order to keep her "meat" fresh. Steve allows Noa to take a shower, but she uses it to try and escape, prompting Steve to surgically remove her buttocks as punishment. Later, Noa befriends another woman named Penny, also being held captive in an adjacent room.
Meanwhile, Mollie becomes concerned about Noa's disappearance and begins investigating with her friend Paul, a bartender who coincidentally served Noa and Steve drinks on their first date. Searching online, Mollie discovers Steve is actually a man named Brendan, and is married to a woman named Ann with whom he has children. Believing he is having an affair, Mollie visits Ann and informs her of her suspicions. During their conversation, Brendan arrives, and when confronted by Mollie denies any knowledge of Noa. As she leaves, Mollie calls Noa's phone which begins ringing in Brendan's pocket. Ann, revealed to be Brendan's accomplice, knocks Mollie unconscious.
Hours later, Brendan invites Noa to dinner after she off-handedly asks what human meat tastes like. He persuades her to taste a meal containing the meat, disguised as spaghetti and meatballs, which she reluctantly does. Brendan returns Noa to her cell, and she vomits the contents of the meal. Meanwhile, Brendan takes Mollie away for harvesting. Sensing a connection with Noa, Brendan invites her to another dinner, providing her with a pink dress as a gift. Before dinner, Brendan shows Noa a hidden compartment filled with items belonging to the victims, and feeds Noa breast meat, which Brendan connotates as possibly tasting "familiar." Noa recognises Mollie's phone among the stolen victims' phones. Following dinner, Noa persuades Brendan to have sex with her, where she pretends to perform fellatio on him and instead bites off his testicles. With Brendan in pursuit, Noa runs and helps Mollie and Penny escape from their rooms.
The three encounter Brendan in the kitchen and begin fighting him, during which Mollie kicks him, knocking him out. They escape into the woods, with Brendan pursuing them with a gun. They manage to attack him again, with Noa taking the gun and shooting Brendan dead. Ann arrives at the house and finds Brendan's body. She encounters Noa in the woods and tries to strangle her, but Noa pulls car keys hidden in her dress and stabs Ann in the neck. As Ann recovers and attempts to strangle Noa again, Mollie bludgeons Ann with a shovel. As she and Mollie relax at a nearby tree, Noa receives a text from a man she went out with at the beginning of the film.
A mid-credits scene depicts five of Brendan's clients in a white room, seated at a table with bleeding human meat at the center. A Satanic symbol is displayed during the end credits, indicating that Brendan and his clients are part of a Satanist organisation.
Screenwriter Lauryn Kahn, a fan of the horror genre growing up, said she wanted to write a film that would appeal to people who were horror fans and people who were not. In July 2020, it was reported Mimi Cave would direct the film in her directorial debut for Legendary Pictures, with Adam McKay producing under his Hyperobject Industries banner. To play the antagonist, Sebastian Stan sent Cave an audition video featuring himself dancing with a knife in hand. He added, "The dance sequences were a big concern for [Cave] and just in case she had any doubts that I could do it, I recorded myself in this video." Between September and December 2020, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Stan, and Jonica T. Gibbs were announced to star. Principal photography took place from February 3 to March 17, 2021, in British Columbia, Canada. Alex Somers composed the score.
The film premiered online at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2022. Ahead of its premiere, Searchlight Pictures acquired the film's worldwide distribution rights. An in-person premiere was held on March 3, 2022, inside Hollywood Legion Post 43 on Highland Avenue. Instead of an afterparty, the premiere had a pre-screening reception due to the film's subject matter. Gina Wade Creative created a display for the reception featuring a large table with food on it, cleavers hanging on a wall, glass jars filled with raw meat, and boxes of snacks shaped like body parts. Fresh was released on Hulu in the United States on March 4, 2022, with a Latin American premiere on Star+ and a Disney+ release in all other territories via Star on the same date. The film was released on March 18, 2022, in the United Kingdom and Ireland, after being pushed back a few weeks.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 81% of 192 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The website's consensus reads, "As gripping as it is upsetting, Fresh makes a provocative meal out of the horror of modern dating." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 67 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Angela Tricarico of Business Insider found the portrayal of modern dating across the horror genre authentic and realistic while complimenting the chemistry of Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan. William Bibbiani of TheWrap praised the chemistry between Jones and Stan through the film, and claimed that Mimi Cave and Pawel Pogorzelski successfully manage to provide a horror movie that balances between romance and gore. Sarah-Tai Black of Los Angeles Times stated that the movie takes a fresh approach to the horror genre through its handle of horror and comedy elements, and praised the performance of Stan. Tara Brady of The Irish Times rated the film 4 out of 5 stars, complimented the performance of the cast, and reviewed positively the feminist approach of the movie across the mental trust and friendship provided between the female characters. Tomris Laffly of RogerEbert.com rated the film 3 out of 4 stars and declared that Cave and Pogorzelsk skillfully create a satirical movie through its use humor and gore, while acclaiming the performances of Jones and Stan.