Fresh: A Killer Movie

Karissa Schaefer ‘23 / Emertainment Monthly TV Section Editor

Spoilers ahead.

Hulu’s new dark comedy-horror movie Fresh looks at a young woman’s dating life gone awry when the next guy she has her sights set on turns the target around on her in an eerie, cannibalistic way. What slowly starts off as a rom-com and quickly pulls the rug out from below, the movie will have audiences thoroughly entertained—especially with the last act. With numerous laughs and shrivels from grotesque plot points, all eyes will be glued to the screen, stuck between enjoyment and the inability to look away. 

In a college roundtable interview with Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan, the actors discussed how the film’s interesting and strange dynamic of romance and horror worked to keep audiences engaged, with even the actors on the edge of their seats while reading the script. While Stan described the film’s tone as “different” from the norm, Edgar-Jones used the word “ambitious” while talking about the uniqueness of the story. She jumped at the chance to do a movie “fresh” in ideas, pun intended. 

“I was kinda thinking ‘How on earth are they going to strike the balance of the tone and how are they going to film it?’ I was drawn to it because I hadn’t read anything like it before and I thought what an opportunity to do something really different. I knew it was going to be stylishly done too because I’d seen our director had made a sizzle reel for inspiration,” Edgar-Jones said. 

Fresh is director Mimi Cave’s feature-length debut, having previously done only music videos and shorts. Cave’s confidence in the film’s journey made for a great experience for the actors, really making it her own. Her background in music and dance supplemented her craftsmanship, making it clear why those elements were heavily implemented into the movie’s themes.  

“She was extremely prepared and had a very specific point of view of the movie,” Stan said. “One thing she really understood was the way the movie needed to feel and how it should be shot so that it remains visually engaging in the slower, more talking parts of the movie. She was even careful of the violence of it all to not overdo it, but to keep the tense moments to be the more frightening things about it.” 

The movie is only writer Lauryn Kahn’s second feature-length film, yet presents as a veteran screenwriter. Edgar-Jones recalls Kahn’s juggling of the balance of lighter and darker bits, commending the finished product. Fitted with an 80s vibe, the cast and crew had a lively time filming, while also making sure the movie was grounded in realism to make way for more surreal moments. 

The story follows Noa (Edgar-Jones) after another failed online dating experience, running into Steve (Stan) at a grocery store, causing them to exchange numbers. Handsomely charming, Steve hits it off with Noa at a bar during their first date, leading to them having sex. Though Noa is swept away after several dates, her best friend Mollie (Jonica T. Gibbs) has her suspicions when it comes to the mysterious man, such as questioning his lack of social media and feeling uncertainty when Noa tells her he’s taking her to a weekend getaway in a surprise location. This builds foreshadowing in the beginning, as the movie hints at something not being right about Steve. 

The level of trust the pair seemingly has in the beginning is crucial for the setting up of the rest of the movie’s tone, making viewers believe there’s a genuine connection. Getting their relationship just right was important for both Stan and Edgar-Jones, dedicating extra rehearsal time for their scenes together. 

“There’s a dynamic between them, it’s so nuanced and it shifts so suddenly,” Edgar-Jones said. “There’s a really tricky part in the middle section of the film where both of them don’t know what the other is feeling, and ultimately Noa has to convince Steve of something in order for her to try to save herself. Trying to track that was really difficult, but we immediately found this shared sense of dry humor.”

The movie has two dinner scenes, both tense to the core. Noa and Steve are constantly using tactics to manipulate the other. When Noa tries to get on his good side, it’s very believable to the audience as well, almost creating the idea that they are really made for each other. 

“There’s such a chess game being played by both the characters and plotting the nuances of that. Especially the final dinner scene, because Noa has to be convincing enough that he’s willing to unchain her and trying to work out how to get there was quite difficult,” Edgar-Jones said. 

An unexpected aspect of the story’s twist came with Steve’s reasoning for doing what he does. The weekend getaway is a trip to his remote house, where Steve proceeds to drug Noa and chain her up in a basement room. After she rightfully freaks out upon realizing the situation she’s in, Steve reveals his intentions: he lures women in, imprisoning them to slowly harvest their body parts to sell on the black market. Although previews and the movie’s synopsis implies some type of cannibalism, the details of Steve entrapping multiple women at the same time to maintain their freshness and quality for the prospect of financial gain—no matter how gruesome this sounds—made for an enticing antagonist perspective. 

To prepare for the role, Stan researched patterns from infamous serial killers who use a charmful persona to get who they want in a dangerous way. The whole act is to appear normal to outsiders, which is accomplished in the movie through Steve’s wife and kids. Minor moments are shown to the audience without giving away details, letting them create their own perceptions. 

“[Ted Bundy would] find a way where he doesn’t appear threatening. Sometimes we get taken aback by someone who’s interested in us and asks us questions rather than keep talking about themselves. But actually, the questions from [Steve’s] point of view, he’s asking just to find out information about you. He’s trying to find a way to make her feel safe.” 

Somehow at the root of the movie, under all the horror and romantic elements, there’s a really great friendship storyline between Noa and Mollie. Anybody would love to have a friend like Mollie, who shows her dedication, loyalty, and courage when she looks for Noa. She’s immediately shown to have Noa’s best interests in mind as she looks for leads on Steve’s real identity. The only problem is, she gets a little too close when she follows Steve and his wife to their house, getting tag-teamed by them and taken to the remote house. Audiences will be rooting for Mollie and Noa to make it out throughout the entire movie, but especially during the intense moments of escape at the end. 

What probably shouldn’t have conjured laughs were the acts of Steve removing a body part from Noa and Mollie. When Noa asks to shower and as she’s led upstairs, she attempts to flee, but to no avail. As punishment, the self proclaimed “plastic surgeon” Steve drugs her up on an operating table, proceeding to cut off her ass—yes, her literal ass. Thinking about it too hard, this left so many questions to ponder. How long does that even take to heal? How is she even able to sit now? Like, was it just a little bit or the whole thing? Then, upon capturing Mollie, she gets one of her boobs cut off. For any woman, this sounds horrifying. This specific situation is definitely something the two friends would laugh about years down the line.

Edgar-Jones appreciated their friendship element from the very beginning. Though a fictional character, she described Mollie as the kind of best friend she’d love to have in real life. They ultimately save themselves with no help and no hesitation. Noa could’ve easily gotten out on her own as soon as possible, but through determination to save the other women trapped, she instead races against time to let them free. As Edgar-Jones echoed, this relayed a momentous moment of female friendships that isn’t always portrayed on camera.

“Really, the true love story is between Mollie and Noa,” Edgar-Jones said. “The film explores this idea through this shared experience, it’s that that enables them to overcome this situation. They’re not saved, it’s their strength that gets them through, and it’s really important to celebrate friendships like that on screen.” 

The movie ends with Noa and Mollie saying “I love you” while covered in blood after killing Steve and his wife, with Mollie severing her head off—something grotesque not shown fully on screen, but it’ll have viewers rooting for Mollie once again. What better song to play for this and the ending credits than Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll”? 

Something worthy of mentioning is the movie’s soundtrack. Though many songs are recent, some amplify the 80s aesthetic, many of them are upbeat which just makes audiences want to dance along with Sebastian Stan, which he does frequently in the movie. One instance occurs not long after Noa is captured, where he dances and sings in the kitchen while in the process of packaging a woman’s leg to sell—he literally dances with the leg, serving camp. The sarcasm and wittiness just enhance the movie. There’s a couple scenes of Noa and Steve dancing together, acting goofy and having fun, which will make anyone want their own romance just to recreate that. It’s especially cute and heartwarming the first time they do it, before the audience finds out Steve’s killer tendencies. It’s a relatable moment, whether people enjoy dancing alone, with a friend, or a romantic partner. 

The comfortability between Edgar-Jones and Stan enhanced their characters’ tensions and chemistry. With such serious subject matter, they established a foundation of trust with one another while incorporating a level of funniness. Despite the challenges—such as weather for the last part, some dancing for Stan, and the few firsts Edgar-Jones had with this set—the environment was full of success. Fresh is Edgar-Jones’ first time playing an American with the accent, her first character using witty humor, and her first opportunity to be in a subgenre, social thriller piece. 

“We were laughing the whole way through making it. Even though there are obviously moments of darkness, you can see that everyone involved is having quite a lot of fun, and it does translate on screen too,” Edgar-Jones said. “That was something I really liked, it was different from anything I’ve done before.”

By watching the movie, Stan hopes audiences will gain a sense of awareness from the decisions one makes when meeting people. He reminds viewers how narratives from growing up have influenced what we perceive about strangers, often making decisions for what to look for. Even though the two didn’t meet over a dating app, the story takes from current real life dating culture and the spontaneity and potential fear that comes with meeting someone unknown. The premise is timely, building an intriguing narrative with a twist, one that’s predictable but still works well. 

“This was a very different telling of a meeting between two people that starts off one way and obviously becomes something else. There’s a lot that appears to be a certain way and gets revealed later. We’re just hoping people can understand the undercurrents and themes of the movie while going on a journey,” Stan said.

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