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Fresh Review | A Fresh Take On Gross-Out Horror Movies

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Fair warning: Don’t watch Fresh if you have a weak stomach. The Mimi Cave-directed thriller is a gross-out horror in all of the right ways and is a fresh (I’m sorry) take on the thriller genre. Daisy Edgar-Jones is surely a star in the making and Sebastian Stan gives a performance that is the right kind of unsettling.

Fresh is a new take on dating in this generation and all of us hopeless romantics. When we first meet her, Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is stuck in a Tinder cold streak of guys who talk about hot sauce, wear ascots (big red flag), and passive-aggressively mock her apparel. Now, I’ve worked in a grocery store in the past, and no one, and I mean no one, has ever fallen in love in the produce section (I’m not jealous, you are!). But alas, that is exactly what happens to Noa when she meets Steve (Sebastian Stan), a man with all of the right swagger and hints of awkwardness and the body of a cologne model. They talk about cotton candy grapes, which I thought were a myth when I worked in a grocery store, and next thing you know, they’re going on a romantic trip.

Fresh — “FRESH” follows Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), who meets the alluring Steve (Sebastian Stan) at a grocery store and – given her frustration with dating apps – takes a chance and gives him her number. After their first date, Noa is smitten and accepts Steve’s invitation to a romantic weekend getaway. Only to find that her new paramour has been hiding some unusual appetites. Steve (Sebastian Stan), shown. (Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.)

Now, all suspension of disbelief must be in play when watching Fresh, as a lot of the logistics don’t make a ton of sense. For example, Steve doesn’t have any social media and is very ominous. It’s fair that some people don’t have social media in this digital age, but at the same point, you’re trying to sell the audience on the fact that a hotshot like Sebastian Stan doesn’t have a single traceable thing on the internet? And at the end, I won’t name who, but a few people survive an event and gather their phones. Fresh never explicitly says how much time has passed, but it has to have been a few days at the bare minimum and I don’t think it would take an Apple store employee to tell you that your phones would be dead. And before you counter that with “The phones were charged!” just bear in mind that the phones were locked in a secret place and you see them sitting on a shelf sans any charger. Hell, even Steve’s house shouts red flags. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, there’s “no signal,” which is always bullshit in these films, and the interior looks like a cross between the house in Ex Machina and Christian Grey’s lair.

With that said, the usage of technology does have some high points. When Mollie, who is a more useful version of Lil Rel Howery’s character in Get Out, is attempting to search for her friend after suspecting foul play, she uses a reverse image search to realize a photo sent to her was a stock photo from a website. It’s not necessarily a mind-blowing idea, but it was a creative usage of an underrated internet tool.

Fresh — “FRESH” follows Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), who meets the alluring Steve (Sebastian Stan) at a grocery store and – given her frustration with dating apps – takes a chance and gives him her number. After their first date, Noa is smitten and accepts Steve’s invitation to a romantic weekend getaway. Only to find that her new paramour has been hiding some unusual appetites. Steve (Sebastian Stan), shown. (Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.)

But back to the actual film, Daisy Edgar-Jones gives a great and star-making performance. She has a certain earnest demeanor in her performance that rings back to Renate Reinsve in The Worst Person in the World. Paired opposite of her is Sebastian Stan, who will restore far more of your faith in him after The 355 (in the unlikely event that you even bothered watching it). Stan turns the dial from a totally normal dude that you’d see in your local grocery store to an unhinged whackjob. It’s these two performances that really make the film something unique. Speaking of unique, director Mimi Cave does a fine job with some stylistic choices, including some GoPro shots.

The gross-out element of Fresh comes in Steve’s weird “hobby.” It’s not the gore or anything like that, rather, Fresh will make you question ordering foods the next time you’re eating out. Now in fairness, the promotional poster for the film did say that the film is not for everyone, and that couldn’t be more true. One particular shot of a meatball with the cheese still melting on it was just disgusting, and the other shots of meat were even worse. Fresh is certainly not for those with a weak stomach, and if you’re that curious as to what the secretive plot is, there’s a song in the film that I believe says “Arm and hammer,” though it easily could have been the name of a certain actor but I’ll let you take that how you will.

Fresh — “FRESH” follows Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), who meets the alluring Steve (Sebastian Stan) at a grocery store and – given her frustration with dating apps – takes a chance and gives him her number. After their first date, Noa is smitten and accepts Steve’s invitation to a romantic weekend getaway. Only to find that her new paramour has been hiding some unusual appetites. Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), shown. (Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.)

Aside from the nitpicks, Fresh is a solid thriller; something that is rare nowadays. It pulls a Drive My Car and doesn’t flash a title card until 30 minutes in, but this is also where the change of tone kicks in. Fresh begins as a story about a hopeless romantic (Noa) and how she meets the guy she thinks is different (Steve). It’s clear that there is more going on than what meets the eye, but the title card signifies a vast change in tone as the film becomes a kidnapping thriller. And while Fresh certainly takes a new angle, or cut of meat, to the kidnapping story, it did become a bit bland and predictable, holding it back from being a four-star film. The second half of the film felt like Get Out in some ways, with Noa’s friend set up to save the day. The biggest issue is that if you’ve seen Get Out or really any kidnapping movie, you’ll know where that story goes.

Fresh will remind you that “There’s more Hope left” for the thriller genre as Steve says in the last act (and yes, there’s a reason that Hope is capitalized). It’s a unique thriller that takes its time to establish the story. Daisy Edgar-Jones stands out and it’s always great to see Sebastian Stan outside of the MCU, his unhinged outbursts are terrifying. The second half of the film is a bit long and doesn’t maintain the momentum that the first act had — though it also doesn’t have the mystique that the first act did — but that’s not enough to hold Fresh back from being a damn good thriller that you should watch if you’ve got Hulu, and, “certified fresh” (ba-dum ching).

Fresh will be available to stream on Hulu on March 4.

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Prey | 20th Century Studios | Hulu

The origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Naru, a skilled female warrior, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth.

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Genre:

Action, Drama, Horror

Release Date:

20222 (Hulu)

Director:

Dan Trachtenberg

Cast:

Amber Midthunder, Dane DiLiegro, Stefany Mathias

Plot Summary:

The origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Naru, a skilled female warrior, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth.

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Choose or Die – A Miss For Netflix

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Netflix’s home page suggestions can always be hit or miss, and unfortunately its latest release ‘Choose or Die’ falls into the category of the latter. Captivated by Asa Butterfield on the poster, I was curious to see what this film had to offer and begrudgingly it didn’t have a lot.

We follow Kayla, a broke student who has a lot to deal with in terms of her family situation and being the sole provider for herself and her mum. She then stumbles upon a retro video game from the 80s which forces her to choose and ultimately leads to various chain reactions of horrific events involving people close to her.

Lola Evans as Kayla and Asa Butterfield as Isaac

The premise of the film sounds interesting, however, I think it swings and misses quite early into the film’s first act. Eddie Marsan sets the tone and trail of interest for Choose or Die as we are introduced to this sadistic game and the chain of events it will inevitably pursue. 

Choose or Die doesn’t make it easy to empathise with its characters, finding any connection to Kayla or Isaac was difficult. This ‘are they aren’t they’ subplot lingers throughout the film’s narrative but adds nothing to the overarching story. The supporting characters, such as Thea and Laura, are much more interesting and genuinely have you intrigued as to what decisions they will make.

What stood out to me was the violent and gore-like scenes of 80s horrors, with some pretty good stomach churning special effects make-up. Those intense scenes, one involving a rat, had me genuinely glued to the screen, anticipating what may happen next. Choose or Die’s strongest component are the early moral decisions Kayla has to make and ultimately demonstrate Meakin’s passion for the horror genre.

Ioanna Kimbook as Grace in Choose or Die, seen here in the diner in one of the more grotesque decisive moments for Kayla

The way in which this film is shot, felt very “student-esque” with its lackluster camera movements and setting. The set design lacked little depth, except for Isaac’s room which is full of detail, therefore making the world feel small and less three dimensional. An element which pulled me out of this cinematic experience, was the fact that this was evidently filmed in the United Kingdom, and the cast contained predominantly a lot of British actors doing an American accent so I wasn’t fully immersed into this world. 

Meakins clearly uses his passion for the horror genre to influence this film’s dark tone, from it’s leading characters’ moral compass as well as the gorey visuals that inevitably come with those decisions. The whole world feels cold and derelict, be it the place in which Kayla cleans or the housing estate of which she lives in, this is an unwelcoming world that no-one wants to comfort you in. 

Choose or Die isn’t a film that will stick out as one that defined 2022, however I’m sure someone will take something away from this film, be it’s reference to 80s gaming or the violent and graphic elements that the director is clearly passionate about. 

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Off Season – To Premiere Exclusively on Shudder

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Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium streaming service for horror, thriller and the supernatural, announced that OFFSEASON will be available exclusively to stream on the platform starting on Friday, June 10, 2022. As a Shudder exclusive, the platform will be the only subscription service that will carry the film in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Upon receiving a mysterious letter that her mother’s gravesite has been vandalized, in OFFSEASON, Marie (Donahue) quickly returns to the isolated offshore island where her late mother is buried. When she arrives, she discovers that the island is closing for the offseason with the bridges raised until Spring, leaving her stranded. One strange interaction with the local townspeople after another, Marie soon realizes that something is not quite right in this small town. She must unveil the mystery behind her mother’s troubled past in order to make it out alive.

Check out the film’s trailer below and read our review HERE as it debuted during SXSW 2021

Written and directed by Mickey Keating (Psychopaths), OFFSEASON stars Jocelin Donahue (Doctor Sleep), Joe Swanberg (The Rental, “Easy”), Richard Brake (3 From HellMandy), Melora Walters (The Pale Door, “Pen15”) and Jeremy Gardner (After MidnightThe Mind’s Eye).

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