Wednesday, September 28, 2022

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Sebastian Stan Shows Off A Terrifying Side In The Dark, Disturbing Sundance Horror Fresh

Why do I keep underestimating Sebastian Stan? It’s easy to take the handsome actor for granted, given the fact that he’s consistently good in almost every part he chooses. But he has been using his popularity to push his influence in the last few years, backing unpredictable projects that find him playing an FBI agent (in Karyn Kusama’s criminally underrated Destroyer), the younger version of J.K. Simmons (in the tragic love story I’m Not Here), Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, and in the twisted Sundance thriller Fresh, a serial killer who abducts women for a shockingly horrifying practice. 

I’m going to throw a spoiler warning in here, because the less that you know about Fresh heading into it, the more effective it will be. Because even in the first act of director Mimi Cave’s Sundance feature, Sebastian Stan relies solely on the charm and natural good looks that he easily could coast on, before the rest of the movie allows him to show off the impressive range that keeps reminding me of how very talented of an actor he is. 

Fresh begins as a commentary on the perils of the modern dating scene, and even there, it boasts sharp observations regarding the difficulty to connect in a tech-driven, stubbornly independent generation. Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones, also terrific) endures dead-end dates and wastes too much time swiping through virtual coupling services. So imagine her surprise when she runs into the charming stranger Steve (Stan) in the produce department of their local grocery store. Mild flirtations turn into actual conversations, and a handful of dates lead to a whirlwind courtship. And when Steve suggests a weekend getaway, Noa’s cautious… but also willing to finally drop her guard and give love a chance.

Daisy Edgar-Jones in Fresh

(Image credit: Fox Searchlight)

Big mistake. Steve’s a serial killer. Beyond that, Steve – who admitted to Noa that he’s a plastic surgeon – keeps his victims alive so he can flay their flesh… and sell it off to the highest-bidding cannibals. Yeah, Fresh is that kind of movie. And it survives that drastic transition from “the horrors of dating” to “the horrors of escaping a lunatic’s basement lair” because Sebastian Stan effectively occupies both personalities seamlessly. Like a handful of actors who have come before him, Stan injects his monster with a level of wit and humor, without ever drifting too far away from the elements that still make him terrifying. Stan and Edgar-Jones embark on a mental (and physical) cat-and-mouse game, and the deeper we wade into Steve’s world, the more disturbing and emotional the trip becomes. 

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