Warning: Spoilers follow for Hulu’s FRESH starring Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones. If you don’t want it spoiled, don’t read any further.
Not every charming guy you meet at the grocery store is a catch.
Sometimes, he catches you — that is, if the premise of Mimi Cave’s Sundance hit feature FRESH, which hails from Searchlight Pictures and premieres Friday on Hulu, is any warning.
Though FRESH begins like a rom-com, it’s anything but. Written by Lauryn Kahn (Ibiza), the film follows Noah (Daisy Edgar-Jones), an average twenty-something looking for love on dating apps. After enduring a particularly awkward restaurant date, she meets a charming doctor named Steve (Sebastian Stan) in a grocery store. He’s everything a good rom-com leading man is supposed to be — until he (spoiler alert) drugs her and chains her up in his house.
I know what you’re thinking: Please, not another predictable abduction movie. But FRESH is different. Steve doesn’t just murder his victims — he keeps them alive long enough to harvest their flesh limb by limb, which he then packages up and sells as gourmet human meat to billionaire cannibals.
Cave knew Stan would make a good Steve based on his performance as Jeff Gillooly in I, Tonya.
“Sebastian’s an incredibly talented actor. Obviously, with this script, people either responded to it and really wanted to be a part of it or really didn’t, because it’s a pretty divisive script,” Cave said. “I loved his performance in I Tonya, and that was like a glimpse of a very sort of layman’s villain. I think that his interest in the psychology of characters and my commitment to making sure this totally hit the mark — we made a good pair.”
It was a brave choice for Sebastian Stan to take on the role of a guy who not only caters to cannibals but is one himself.
“If you think about it from his perspective, he’s taking on a huge risk as an actor and a role that’s really complicated and one that he doesn’t want to be lumped in with other actors’ performances or portrayals of other psychopaths or serial killers,” Cave added. “So for him, it was a fun challenge to be able to be like, ‘Okay, well, what’s my version and what’s my take?’ And so, for Steve’s character, he did a lot of research and really dove into the minds of certain types of criminals that come up against these same types of crimes to the point where I’d be like, ‘You need to take a break,'” she laughed. “I’d be like, ‘Just don’t watch a documentary tonight.”
Right about now, you may be wondering — does this stuff happen in real life?
“This script is not based on anything real. So it’s 100% fiction. However, we’ve seen Jeffrey Epstein. We’ve seen cases of men that are in scenarios that are the 1% of the 1%, who are so wealthy that no one ever says ‘no’ to them. And I think there’s this fascination of, okay, well, if no one’s ever saying no to you, and you can get anything you want, does your tolerance for thrill-seeking just increase? How far can you push it?” Cave said. “We were trying to make a symbolism of these types of people, but also, who knows what’s out there? I think it’s, as we’ve seen in the last couple of years, a very mad, crazy world, and so a lot of the movie is symbolism, but I think there’s also some truth to certain things that are out there.”
The film is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for vegans. Basically, anyone who is easily grossed out by gratuitous close-ups of meat that, in the make-believe FRESH universe, is supposed to have come from a human, should think twice before watching. But don’t worry — Cave said it’s just your average grocery store meat colored and enhanced to look a bit, well, ickier.
“I think that was pork,” Cave said of that one meat-grinder montage. “There’s a lot of different food scenes. I can’t remember each ingredient for each thing, but we were always trying to get the right color, the right sort of texture, the right tone of everything so that when it read across the screen, it seemed kind of familiar, but maybe a little unfamiliar.”
Same with the fancy cannibal dinners Steve makes for Noah.
“A chef prepared everything, and we worked really closely with him to make sure that things look visually a little unsettling but real,” Cave said. “So yeah, different fun, secret ingredients that were all edible to create something that looked kind of insane and somewhat grotesque on screen, but also were edible for our actors.”
Whatever the secret ingredient is, it’s definitely not human flesh.
FRESH is now streaming on Hulu.
Main Image: Sebastian Stan in the film FRESH. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.