You’d be forgiven for assuming that a movie co-starring Daisy Edgar-Jones (the star of the sex-scene heavy “Normal People”) and Sebastian Stan (a man who doesn’t own a shirt) would be a hot-blooded romance.
But “Fresh,” which premiered in the “Midnight” section of the Sundance Film Festival Thursday and hits Hulu March 4, will more likely make you hurl than send you racing for a cold shower.
The title doesn’t describe the movie very well. “Fresh” is a familiar and somewhat successful horror film in the socially conscious mold of “Get Out.”
There are shocks and suspense. When the twist — which will not be revealed here — arrived, I let out a loud expletive. That’s the most thrilling (and disgusting) moment of the director Mimi Cave’s movie. A couple scenes after made me almost lose my lunch. And then the next hour comes off like a cool-down exercise.
Noah (Edgar-Jones) is a typical twenty-something who hates modern dating, and the way carefully crafted Tinder profiles can obscure that somebody is actually a jackass or a perv. So, imagine her happy surprise when an attractive man named Steve (Stan) chats her up in the supermarket produce aisle. Soon they’re on a date at a restaurant and making small talk.
“Where are you from?,” he asks.
“The East Coast,” she replies.
There are many such annoyingly vague exchanges in Lauryn Kahn’s script. Noah is cagey, fine, but it is wholly unbelievable that Steve wouldn’t ask a follow-up question — “Wherein?” — considering that the East Coast includes both Savannah and Manhattan.
She also says she has no siblings, her dad is dead and she doesn’t know where her mom is. After only two dates, Steve wants to take this totally unattached woman on a weekend trip to a surprise location. There are more red flags here than the Soviet Union.
The pair hops in the car, and in the case of Noah, would be better off driving over a cliff.
Her experience is excruciating, and I suspect that some viewers — lured in by an outwardly appealing horror flick on Hulu — will turn it off once they discover what this freak is really up to.
The movie shares a director of photography, Pawel Pogorzelski, with “Hereditary” and “Midsommar.” His sense of style and foreboding color palate is here, only put to use in a much less artful film.
Edgar-Jones, I’m happy to report, is just as vulnerable and witty when handed a campy thriller with sub-par writing as she is on the sublime miniseries “Normal People,” which netted her a Golden Globe nomination in 2021. Even at her worst-off, we believe she’s capable of changing her situation. And Stan gets to give his charm a demented spin that harks back to Christian Bale in “American Psycho.” Only much yuckier.
However, as nauseating as it is, “Fresh” is very well-worn. If you’ve seen “Get Out” and “Promising Young Woman,” which this is basically a mashup of, “Fresh” will leave you craving something meatier.