Festivals, Reviews

Sundance 2022: ‘Fresh’ – A Fun and Horrifying Take on the Dangers of Dating

The dating world is now more complex than ever thanks to the emergence of dating apps. You will find creeps, friends with benefits, or someone who you’ll date for maybe a month, but only if you’re lucky. 

Such is the case for Noa, played by Daisy Edgar-Jones fresh from her Normal People fame, who is swiping her way into finding a man to accompany her lonely life. After a failed date with a guy named Chad, Noa seems ready to give up until she meets a handsome and charming Steve (Sebastian Stan) in the produce section at the grocery store. A meet-cute that dating apps don’t offer, it’s a refreshing change for Noa, and Steve establishes that he is different from the guys she has dealt with before.

Their whirlwind romance starts and Noa finally lets her guard down. Her best friend Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs), though happy for her, is skeptical of Steve because of his lack of social media presence. High on the romance, Noa allows Steve to whisk her away to a weekend getaway in a romantic forest cabin. It quickly turns into a nightmare when Noa discovers Steve’s unusual appetite.

Director Mimi Cave and screenwriter Lauryn Kahn take us on a nice love story that is just too good to be true. For the first thirty minutes, Cave establishes Noa and Steve’s romance; as the audience is expecting a horror film, the obvious tropes are cleverly spread out, building anticipation as to what might happen to Noa. As her nightmare befalls her, the opening credits shake us off of the cutesy romance into a horrifying reality.

Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) seems ready to give up until she meets a handsome and charming Steve (Sebastian Stan) in the produce section at the grocery store.

Fresh is an impressive first feature from Cave. It is campy, entertaining, stomach-churning, funny, and charming. As soon as you realize what is going on, it is obvious where the film is going, but it is still effective in delivering expectations. Pawel Pogorzelski, whose past work includes horror films Midsommar and Hereditary, delivers delicious visuals paired with the beautiful production design. Pogorzelski continues to dominate the genre with his composition. Edgar-Jones and Stan’s chemistry oozes from start to finish, and Stan is so effectively haunting as he juggles this charmingly cold and calculating man. The opening credits warrant special mention as well: its effective visuals paired with a haunting theme introduce us into this world Noa is entering, and it won’t be a surprise if it is mentioned as one of the best opening credit sequences in recent memory, joining the likes of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Sundance never fails with its Midnight section. Fresh reminded me of last year’s campy gore galore film Censor, though more fun. It is recommended to go in blind because it will take you by surprise if you’re not as well-versed with horror as I am. It is a wild ride as soon as it reveals itself.

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