‘Fresh’ borrows common horror tropes to create a unique story

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(Graphic Illustration by Dylan Tusinski | The Collegian)

Hailee Stegall, Arts and Culture Reporter

Hulu has an iffy track record when it comes to originals. Movies like “Run” (2020) and shows such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” have made a splash throughout the media. The kicker is they’re exclusive to the popular streaming platform.

However, aside from some of the bigger names, most of the service’s content is just meh. There’s a lot of it, but most of it is reruns of familiar favorites, and with the increased love of at-home convenience that came with the sudden spread of COVID-19 about two years ago, people yearn for the ability to watch something fresh from the comfort of their couch. 

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So along comes “Fresh,” a contemporary horror movie that plays like a classic, although it’s without the masked killer element. I would argue it is scarier due to the fact it could actually happen — and has.

The new-age horror flick stars Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones. Stan, best known for his recurring role as the Winter Soldier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, plays Steve, the worst fear of all young people in the dating scene: a cannibalistic, unfeeling serial killer who appears completely normal at first.

Edgar-Jones plays the quintessential role of Noa, the final girl — a trope thought to be a dead art — revived with an Angeleno flair. Jonica T. Gibbs emerges as Mollie, Noa’s quick-witted best friend of seven years who, although ending up captured herself, plays a large role in the blood-spattered ending. 

Noa has a meet-cute with Steve in the produce section of a local grocery store shortly after the explosive end of an objectively heinous — and sadly relatable — Tinder date. They grab drinks; they grab takeout; they grab each other, and after knowing him for a short while (but definitely not long enough), he invites her on a weekend getaway, and she accepts. Mollie, rightfully skeptical, warns her against it, but the typically practical Noa rebukes her fears with her recent life philosophy: “Fuck it.” 

Personally, I like movies that never come right out and say what the character’s issues are. Being allowed to create your own reality outlined by the flashing screen in front of you and formulating a backstory is appealing. These types of movies feel like a snapshot in time — “Dazed and Confused” being the most popular example that comes to mind. 

However, I can understand that for some, this may be annoying, as there are loose ends and a lack of thorough explanation. We don’t know why Steve has the particular appetites that he does aside from a lackluster and ineffectual story over dinner. Many characters are missing any sort of context as to how they wound up where they are. I appreciate the moment-in-time concept that’s reminiscent of the beloved slasher flicks of time gone by, but there are giant gaps in the story that are difficult to overlook. 

As I mentioned before, the movie has a very classic feel to it but with a modern spin that makes it appealing to the aesthetic-chasing younger generation. It’s beautifully framed up, with several shots that could be movie posters themselves.

It’s a predictable story — a good guy who turns out to be not such a good guy — but it’s done in a way that feels shocking and unforeseen, somehow. It’s like how we know what’s going to happen in each “Halloween” movie, yet we flock to the theater for every release.

Part of this is due to character design. We have our tropes: the killer, the final girl, the wary best friend, the unexpected rescuer. Yet the actors bring them to life in a way that’s extremely applicable to our modern world, utilizing characteristics and technology that we partake in every day, and that’s part of what makes it so disturbing.

Stan’s sociopathic murderer has a different feel to him, playing the part of the average Joe and acting with emotion even when committing horrific acts. In his mind, he’s doing no wrong, and that’s what’s scariest. In most horror movies, the killer has no perceivable personality — with or without a mask. Steve has motivations, ambitions, stories and feelings — he’s so scary because he’s so human.

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Reach Hailee Stegall at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @stegallbagel.