GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by Mimi Cave.
Starring Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jojo T. Gibbs.
Horror, US, 114 minutes.
Streaming on Disney Plus from 18th March 2022.
Young, single and cynical Noa finds herself increasingly bored with the dating scene. Suffering through dates with self-obsessed and clueless men asking upfront if she will pay for dinner and all too willing to offer their opinions on her appearance, Noa feels ready to settle for a life of easy going singledom. However, an encounter with the charming Steve in the local supermarket soon sees her embarking on a relationship that soon speeds along to a weekend trip away.
It is only when Steve innocuously mentions the traffic situation that your stomach drops slightly. It is one in a series of subtle hints, signs that there is something wrong with this charming and witty young man. If you’ve seen the trailer or read any other reviews, then you know the basic premise at play here and if you are a horror fan you know what’s what, but it still manages to ring a small bell in your mind that tinkles doom. It is an effective gear change after the humorous and witty set up that effectively portrays the modern Hell of app-based dating life for twenty-first century singletons. When all is revealed about thirty minutes in it is only then that the film’s title appears on screen and it becomes clear what it actually means.
There is a little more to the story and motives of its characters that effectively leads FRESH down its unexpected path. Although the conceit at the heart of it is slightly reminiscent of a certain Eli Roth franchise from a few years back, FRESH is more character driven and as a result of this approach manages to garner just as an unsettling effect. Onscreen violence and gore is thin on the ground but what is on full display is the after effects and what they in turn lead on to. The result is disturbing in its matter-of-fact presentation and the little personal touches that Steve adds to a certain something opens the film up to multiple levels of interpretation. It can be viewed as the commodification and/or objectification of women in the digital age taken to a ludicrous but disturbingly plausible end as well as a simple horror thriller with a number of well executed stings and twists.
By the end of the film though it is hard not to overcome the sense that you may have seen all of this a number of times already. One set-up and pay off towards the end feels like a playful commentary on a similar character in GET OUT but feels redundant by the films end with its damp punchline that leads nowhere.
Mimi Cave’s direction of Lauryn Kahn’s script is slick and manages to nail the horror elements just as well as the comedic ones. Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan also make an interesting double act especially the latter going against his trademark Marvel role with a turn that even makes the act of dancing and mugging along to 80’s pop hits one of the more unnerving sights on display here. Unlike its title however the result feels a little recycled working more as a critique of twenty-something life before it gets to its true nature.