Horror Meets Rom-Com in “FRESH”

By Stephanie Ornelas 

When casual meet-cutes merge with gruesome discoveries, you’re left with one fascinating recipe for a horror film. That’s what you get with FRESH, a story about a girl who is exhausted by dating apps and the whole modern dating scene. When Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) meets awkward but charming Steve in a grocery store, she’s both intrigued and attracted. But when she decides to go on a trip with him, she soon finds out he has an appetite for more than just old-fashioneds and falling in love. 

The film starts off as your typical comedy/rom-com and takes a dramatic turn after a very strong introduction. It leaves viewers craving more as the tone instantly changes to a full-blown, gruesome horror film that shines light on some pressing issues, like the perils women face in the modern dating scene and the accompanying physical objectification. The film takes an interesting look at the perverse ways men value women, but it also explores the power of friendship and how the strongest of bonds can be lifesaving. 

During the Q&A, screenwriter Lauryn Kahn and director Mimi Cave talk about the balancing act of creating a film about ideas while also making superficial entertainment. Kahn mentions that to her, living in the darkness throughout an entire horror film is not entertaining. 

“I wanted to somehow make a movie that was saying something and that was scary, while not shoving it down your throat [no pun intended] in a preachy way. I wanted the audience to be genuinely scared, but I also wanted them to laugh, and to feel a plethora of emotions.” 

Towing the line of tone was everything for this film, according to director Mimi Cave, who agrees that some of the best films allow you to experience a range of emotions. 

“It was about visually bringing this script to life. I had to really find that balance and create those moments where you’re laughing one minute and the next you’re jumping out of your seat,” she adds. 

The performances work so well because, while the roles are very serious, it’s obvious that there was room for the actors to have fun and be playful. That kind of juxtaposition adds a lot of dimension to the film, as you never really know what’s coming next. This spontaneity really attracted the actors to the script. 

Actors Edgar-Jones (Noa), Sebastian Stan (wicked but charming Steve), and Jojo T. Gibbs (Eva’s best friend Millie) all agree that the challenge of balancing the different tones of the film was something they came to appreciate and enjoy. 

“I think there was a level of realism that we were always constantly trying to achieve,” says Stan, who researched every serial killer movie he could possibly find to prepare for the role. 

“What I always loved about the script is that there are these elements of humor and a very specific tone. I really do think humor helps us process trauma and difficult things in a better way.”