Girl meets guy….both fall in love…..a typical rom com….then the opening credits roll….
“A delicious slice of horror mayhem” is the perfect summary of Mimi Cave’s extraordinary directing debut, a film that sets out like a perfect When Steve met Nora romantic comedy, before revealing its grotesque hand to an unsuspected audience.
The fact the opening film credits do not roll until the 40 minute mark shows the remarkable confidence in Cave who trusts the story that she is about to tell, refusing to rely on a cheap horror trick at the beginning to get the horror crowd onside.
The opening set-up is perfectly played by both Daisy Edgar-Jones (building on her Normal People success) and Sebastian Stan (a career best performance) as they make the viewer totally invest in their blossoming relationship.
It does not start that well though for Daisy’s Nora who we see at the start. having not the best of first dates and then going home to receive a dick pic which will relate to many who have experienced the perils of online dating. Given up on finding her dream man, she ventures out for a bit of late night grocery shopping, only to bump into Sebastian’s Steve, a charming handsome guy in which they have an instant connection.
A few more dates and Nora is smitten, despite a few warnings from her best friend Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs) and soon Nora is whisked away by Steve to a romantic getaway, but first they needs to stop at his house, right in the middle of nowhere, where phone signal is a no no….
Cue- the opening eerie title sequence that flips this story from a love story, straight into the horror genre with a wonderful sprinkle of dark humour and creative imagery, along with Lauryn Kahn’s layered script, these are all the ingredients it needs to make FRESH destined to become a cult classic.
If I am being vague in exactly what happens once Nora enters that house, then I offer no apologise as FRESH is best when you go in without knowing exactly what happens, even through there are enough subtle hints before the reveal for many horror veterans to guess what is coming.
Stan here is simply fantastic. At first he makes you believe that any girl would fall for his boyish good looks and playful flirty charm, but as soon as he is channelling Patrick Bateman, holding a kitchen knife while dancing to Animotion’s “Obsession”, you’ll soon be captivated by how evil a human being can actually get.
Edgar-Jones is more than a match though, a woman who fails to give up and manages to achieve the emotional pull the audience need to make sure they are on her side through out.
The directing of Cave makes a mockery that its her first feature. In lesser hands, this could easily have been a contender for the year’s most harshest torture porn, but cleverly the director hints at the danger, leaving it all to the imagination of its viewer, a delightful trick that pushes the quality of this tale further into a near masterpiece contender.
If anything, its the last twenty minutes that the film falters slightly. The cool composed feel, thrown out of the window as it settles for more of a “straight thriller” where everything is thrown at the plot as chaos ensures. It doesn’t quite work, but that is only a minor fault for a horror/thriller that will no doubt be up there as the year’s best as 2022 draws to a close.
Yes, its that good!