Fresh (2022) Movie Ending Explained & Themes Analyzed: Debut director Mimi Cave’s movie, Fresh, takes us into the world of cannibals, an under-appreciated horror genre mostly branded as being too outrageous or too imaginative for the refined human palette. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on 20th January 2022 and caused a stir among critics online for its playfully conscious treatment of the themes of cannibalism and modern dating. It almost left me feeling as excited and entertained as the time I had watched Ready or Not (2019), a favorite horror-comedy that bends the genres of slasher and gothic elements. Before its film festival premiere, Searchlight Pictures acquired the distribution rights of this film. 114 minutes long, you can stream Fresh on Hulu now. It is a film full of colours, warmth, and devilish mischief, and I’d highly recommend watching the film before you read on. It is, after all, full of spoilers hereafter. Remember – it is NOT a film for the faint-hearted!
Cave is unafraid to show us the myriad possibilities of human meat being turned into food for human consumption. For example, pasta with a giant meatball (human meat, of course) served with some cheese and wine on the side for a dinner date. The film is conscious of how wildly fascinating the theme can be for horror movie fans. Hence, it goes the distance to garnish itself with elements of dark humour. Thirty minutes into the film, I knew that both the genres of horror and dark comedy were in for a toss – What begins as an impressionable, young woman’s misadventure into the world of modern dating soon turns into a gory nightmare. However, at no point does Fresh feel overdone or forced upon the audience. An engaging background score and stunning visuals successfully keep pace with the events in the film. Besides, a brilliant Sebastian Stan performance lures you into it, like fine wine. No matter how many times you’ll want to look away from all the mouths relishing in the meat, you won’t succeed.
Believe me, it is a smorgasbord of delight! However, it can get a little difficult to see through the interlaced themes of comedy and horror from time to time, especially that ending which forces us to stop and ponder upon the plot resolution. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered below.
Fresh (2022) Movie Synopsis & Summary:
The film begins at the heart of a date between Noa and a guy she has met online. During it, she has to pay in cash for her food, and she is told that she’d look much more feminine in a dress (she is wearing an oversized sweater). She is disappointed by the unrealistic standards of love set by Disney movies and, in general, by the swipe-right culture. That’s when she meets Steve, a charming doctor, in a grocery store, whom she starts dating. Noa’s best friend, Mollie, signals Noa with a red flag when she informs her that Steve has no social media handles. However, Noa ignores it and decides to leave with Steve on a surprise holiday planned by him. He drives her over to his place for the night before their trip and drugs her wine. Soon, Noa wakes up to find herself chained to the floor in a room.
Steve informs her that he is a dealer in the meat of women’s body parts, selling the meat off to clients who like them fresh for consumption. Noa soon realizes that she is not alone in this misadventure. She strikes up a friendship with a woman in the adjacent room – Penny – also helped captive by Steve. Noa tries to escape by attempting to trick Steve to take her for a shower. As punishment, he chops off her buttocks (literally!). Noa figures out in her conversations with Penny that Steve might have a weak spot for her. She piques Steve’s curiosity by asking him what human meat tastes like and gets invited for a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs by him. Meanwhile, Mollie worried about Noa’s disappearance for over a week now, figures out that Noa might be in danger when the picture from Cottage Grove received in her chat with Noa turns out to be of stock nature picture from the internet. She hunts down Steve’s real identity, Brendan, and reaches his home to warn his wife, Ann, about his activities. However, Brendan is soon home, and before she realizes her mistake, she too falls prey to him.
Brendan, a.k.a Steve, gifts Noa a pink dress and some makeup items to freshen up for another dinner. Soon, they are on the dance floor and, afterward, on the bed. When Noa goes down on Brendan for performing fellatio, she bites off his penis instead and attempts to run away. She also frees Penny and Mollie from their captivity, but before they can leave the house, Brendan strikes back. A literal flight breaks out among them. Soon, Brendan pursues them into the adjacent wood with his gun but is shot dead by Noa. Ann arrives at the scene of violence and attempts to strangle Noa but is soon met with death herself. The film closes with the shot of Noa and Mollie sitting huddled under a tree, heaving a sigh of relief, when Noa’s phone screen glows – a text from the guy she had gone out on a date with at the start of the film.
Why did Steve kidnap Noa?
Steve, whose real name is Brandon, is a dealer in the meat of human beings, more precisely women. He is responsible for delivering the fresh meat of women to his clients, delectably wrapped in a box full containing the particular woman’s belongings, for their consumption. Noa was merely a scapegoat for his business transaction. To lure her into his trap, Steve proposed the idea of a weekend getaway to Noa where he drugs her wine – a kidnap (if you can call it one) for professional gain.
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Does Noa survive?
After Noa first tries to escape from Brendan’s captivity, she is caught redhanded and punished brutally. Her buttocks are surgically removed; it takes her a long time to heal, but she is not dead. Later in the movie, when she bites off Brendan’s penis and attempts to run away with the other girls, fighting ensues between both of them.
Noa is injured in the process, but she ultimately pins Brendan to the ground, disarms him, and shoots him dead. When his wife, Ann, tries to strangle Noa after she discovers her dead husband, Mollie helps her bludgeon Ann as well. Therefore, she comes out as a survivor in the end.
Is Fresh a feminist horror film?
A feminist horror film must secure a higher percentage in the Bechdel Test. The movie does tick two of the three main criteria. However, there’s little to no conversation among the women, Noa and Mollie, about anything other than Brendan. However, the genre of a feminist horror film is not so easy to define. Controversially, several film theorists believe that horror movies provide for a fertile hotbed of feminist exploration of themes since they bring to the screen images of violence manifested through or upon female bodies. In this movie, women are the target of violence by men and, in a broad context, the patriarchal tendencies that govern relationships involving sexual desire and intimacy.
It also seeks to address the importance of primal passion – be it food or sex – in a relationship where the power of making a choice is more in the hands of the man, women becoming a mere pawn in the process. It also promotes the idea of female camaraderie when we see all the women captives under Brendan uniting in their efforts to defeat him, through him, the patriarchal structure feeding him. It draws us into the final girl trope, commenting on the power of asserting agency for a woman in a relationship and the world, in general. I think the movie can be safely called a feminist horror film, even a modern cult classic in a decade.
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Fresh (2022) Movie Themes Explained:
Cannibalism and Consumerism
The film brings an element of freshness to the themes of cannibalism. Cannibalism, or the act of one human feeding upon another, has been popularly represented as an anomaly, a psychological ailment, or a taboo in popular culture. In the last decade, with feature-length films (Raw) and TV shows (Hannibal and Santa Clarita Diet), cannibalism has received a sufficient amount of attention. Yet, it remains a private act of choice and practice among individuals with a certain ‘taste’.
In this film, cannibals form a community of consumers, and where consumers prevail, suppliers must. Soon, we learn that cannibalism has also been capitalized on. Brendan is our supplier, and he is careful with the quality of freshness of the meat. He talks about how the spaghetti dish he cooks is worth 30,000 dollars. To cater to the consumer’s fetish, he takes care to parcel a few things belonging to the women whose meat he is serving his customers. Money, it is established, can buy anything. It is a business that feeds Brendan’s family, and for the business to thrive, he must kidnap women and surgically remove their body parts. Cannibalism becomes a public truth and the consumer culture a butt of social commentary in the process.
Meat as a Metaphor for Women
There is something sinister about the idea of deriving dark humor from women being doubled as meat in this film. The truth is harsh, but, thankfully, the film doesn’t shy away from pointing it out or informing us about the consumers of this meat, men. Women continue being treated as commodities in the patriarchal society around us – at home, work, or in the dating realm.
If women were to be a metaphor for meat, Brendan’s freezer consisting of chopped body parts of women can be read as the several kinds of meat, or options, that men tend to avail of when deciding to satisfy their primal urges. The point is – they are readily available, sometimes affordable with enough money. The metaphor dehumanizes women, forcing them to undergo literal fragmentation, a violent form of oppression. Funnily enough, the butcher of this meat is a man, a true-blue patriarch, and a direct result of social conditioning.
The camera does fantastic work of zooming in and out of the meat that Brendan chops, cooks, and tastes in his kitchen, making it humorous but glaringly way. I liked the little nuance when Brendan thought he was developing a connection with Noa over the taste of human meat. After all, haven’t women been, historically, an equal contributor in the oppressive, patriarchal structure governing their own lives? Ann, Brendan’s wife, is disabled. She has lost one of her lower legs (read: meat), possibly to Brendan’s surgeries, and is unable to walk out of the marriage. So, she internalizes this loss and becomes a teammate for her husband in his business dealings. Lastly, each of the women in Brendan’s captivity has been left disabled in one way or another, showing how women’s bodies become the receptor and carrier of trauma in most relationships in the patriarchal world order.
Commentary on Contemporary Dating
The film begins with the culmination of a date that has been fixed online. Noa is dissatisfied with her experience and appears to be disillusioned about the norms of online dating, the unpredictability it brings and the lack of love in their life, fed as they were with rosy ideas of love by Disney when growing up. The particular sequence where Noa is invited to have sex with a random admirer on the internet helps drive the point that contemporary dating is only concerned with the consummation of primal passion, not love. In such a case, meeting someone in the grocery section of a supermarket seems old school but a better option, unless it isn’t.
The question arises – Whom can you really trust in this space? Definitely not someone who has no social media accounts – a familiar red flag if you, too, are aware of the dos and don’ts of online dating. The frivolity of the nature of relationship building and love, in this manner, is worth giving a thought to. However, interestingly, no matter how much we have progressed in our modality of looking for a partner, the film establishes that looks can be deceptive – offline or online. With the message from the guy, who Noa had met at the start of the film, appearing on her cell phone screen, the audience is hinted at the Sisyphian nature of modern dating where sex rules and love goes for a toss.
Power is Agency and Vice Versa
Recent feminist criticism focuses on the importance of agency, the power of control over action, and its consequences by women. With an agency, comes great power and, eventually, great responsibility. The movie obliquely hints at the power of this agency through the female protagonist, Noa.
Noa is in complete control of who she wishes to date, a swipe-right culture that seeks to bring two people together only if they have both expressed their desire for the same. However, in one of the early scenes where she casually replies to an unknown admirer on the app, she is flocked with messages inviting her for sex. She exercises her agency to back off from the scene. This agency also comes with the power of contemporary technological advancements.
However, when she is chained to the floor in Brendan’s house, how must she exercise this agency? By partaking in the roleplay. She voluntarily gives into Brendan’s advances, agreeing to enjoy a dinner of human meat and wine with her own oppressor. This assertion of her own choice, or agency, makes her powerful enough to actually strike back at her oppressor – biting off Brendan’s penis. Simultaneously, it makes her responsible for freeing not only herself but Penny and Molly from Brendan’s captivity.
Female camaraderie, or a feeling of trust and safety among women with shared experiences, is a fresh concern in horror movies. We have grown up with movies where women are constantly pitted against each other, for better or worse. For example, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Mean Girls, or Death Becomes Her – all come down to jealous female characters engaged in high-end dramas. That needn’t necessarily be the case with women in real life. Thankfully, recent releases in popular culture are trying to build upon female camaraderie and help bridge the gap between reality and reel-ity. For example, popular TV shows, such as Sex Education and Derry Girls. Thankfully, the movie Fresh also serves us with this theme of female camaraderie as one of the subplots in the narrative.
We find Noa and Mollie, best friends for seven years, conversing about the lack of love in her life, choice in men, and dating, in general. Mollie is quick to raise a red flag when Noa informs her that Brendan has no social media handle. Mollie goes the distance to get in touch with her ex-boyfriend, the server at the bar where Noa and Brendan had gone for their first date, to hunt out details about Brendan when Mollie goes missing for a week. She ends up being hunted (surgically) for her meat by Brendan because she had risked her safety for Noa’s sake when she went visiting Ann, Brendan’s wife, about her husband’s affair. On the other hand, Noa and Penny strike up a friendship while living on the opposite sides of a wall. Noa, too, doesn’t selfishly flee from the house. She helps out Mollie and Penny and cooperates with them to overpower Brendan. Till the end of the film, Mollie and Noa’s friendship stands out.
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Fresh (2022) Movie Ending Explained:
When Brendan asks Noa for a second dinner, she readily agrees. He provides her with makeup tools and a pretty pink dress for the dinner. At the dining table, they drink wine and discuss the exquisite taste of human meat, clearing the air of tension between them with puns and jokes. He shows her the secret shelf behind a wall painting, where he stores the personal belongings of the women in his captivity. He tells her that it was a token for his clients who preferred to know a little about the woman whose meat they were feasting. Soon, they decide to dance a little and head into a bedroom. Once inside, Noa visits the washroom and returns to perform fellatio on Brendan. Once she goes down on him, she bites off his penis and smears toothpaste on his eyes, momentarily distracting him in pain as she attempts to escape.
She frees Mollie and Penny from their rooms. Soon, Brendan is back, and a fight breaks out between the women and Brendan. The women are easy targets, all of them being injured in one way or another. However, they manage to take him down eventually. Ann arrives at the scene, and by the sight of blood in the living room, she is quick to judge what might have ensued. Outside the house and in the adjacent wood, Noa shoots Brendan dead in the face and is attempted to be strangulated by Ann, who instead bludgeons to death, thanks to Mollie’s timely strike with a spade. Ann and Mollie huddle together under a tree, sighing in relief at having escaped a literal cannibalistic hell when a text message appears on the screen of Noa’s phone. It is from the guy she had met at the beginning of the film, the point being that dating is an unexhaustive process, and appearances can be deceptive.