In the modern world dating and relationships, and online dating apps, can seem at best a gamble and at worst a round of Russian roulette.  Fresh is a film that leans more towards the latter.  The film centers around its main heroine  Noa,  Daisy-Edgar Jones (Normal People, War of the Worlds), a young woman whose disgust for dating is changed by a chance encounter in a grocery store with her would-be prince charming, an awkwardly charming man named Steve (Sebastian Stan).  Even by today’s standards, things start to move fast, and it isn’t long before Steve suggests that the couple go out for a reclusive getaway in the wilderness.  It isn’t long before Noa begins to suspect that Steve isn’t quite everything and that the wild appetites that he harbors in his heart, may be more than the stomach can handle.

It is at this point in the review that we should mention that should you be the type of person who has any sort of aversion or sensitivity to anything food or eating-related, then you should just stop reading this right now because this film is not for you!  While Fresh may contain its fair share of blood and gore, the true shock factor in this film takes place in the imagination of its viewers.  It could have chosen from decades of tried and true Hollywood scare tactics to make viewers squeamish, but instead the film chooses to turn the audience’s brains against themselves, resulting in a film that could upset even the most iron-clad of stomachs.

Director Mimi Cave started out her career shooting music videos for the likes of Danny Brown and Sleigh Bells, and she brings a lot of that kind of flavor to this project.  Much like in a music video, many of the shots seem to be more visual oriented than plot oriented and sometimes her breaking of normal cinematic conventions can be a bit distracting.  Even so, Cave has a solid grasp of who she is as a director, and her own stylized brand of filmmaking is one that sets a perfect tone for a film like this.

In the lighting department, Cave enlisted the help of Sundance Midnight film alumni, Pawel Pogorzelski.  Pogorzelski, probably best known for his work as DP on films like Midsommar and Hereditary, does marvelous work in this film and does a great job of setting the tone for each and every scene. Cave is a master artisan when it comes to cinematography, and Pogorzelski’s lighting does an amazing job of balancing the film’s duality of tone that alternates between campiness and shock.   In one moment he gives us something that seems right out of a CW, Berlanti-verse show, and in the next, he is able to transport his viewers to a world more reminiscent of something you’d see in Saw or Human Centipede 2.  With Fresh, Pogorzelski has once again cemented himself as a staple in Sundance’s Midnight movie category.

One of the best parts of this film was actually getting to see Sebastian Stan step into something a little more against typecast.  Those who only know Stan through his portrayal of Bucky Barnes in the MCU are definitely in for a rude awakening.  In Fresh we get to see a version of Stan that we often don’t get to see, one that is both playful and charming, while at the same time harboring a sick and sadistic lust for… well perhaps its best not to spoil that part.  With Pam & Tommy coming in later this year, Sebastian Stan seems dead set to prove to everybody that he can take on just about any role you throw at him, and Fresh is no exception.

Overall, Fresh is a horror movie that is great not only because it pushes all the wrong buttons in all the right ways, but also because it does so while also telling an interesting narrative.  Like many great genre films, it chooses to use a hyper-violent fictional setting to explore hard to talk about subjects such as overcoming trauma, and the weight that society puts on victims of violent abuse.  However, much of the film’s philosophical dissection of modern society gets lost due to the overwhelming amount of grotesque obscenities that happen to every character in this film.  Nonetheless, it is a film that is arresting both in subject manner as well as tone, and will keep you trapped in the vice-like grip of its jaws long after the credits have finished rolling.  This film has already been snatched up by Fox Searchlight, and that means that interested audiences should be able to lay eyes on it within the next year or so.