Brand New Cherry Flavor is “an engrossing and pleasantly odd ride”
My late great-aunt Edie was a gentle and sensitive soul. Whenever she’d watch television or movies, she’d keep a cushion on her lap, into which she would bury her face every time something scary or disturbing happened on-screen. Now, decades later, after watching this extremely crazy, extraordinarily weird, oftentimes hugely disturbing limited series, I can finally relate.
Hooked in by the synopsis – “A filmmaker heads to Hollywood in the early ‘90s to make her movie but tumbles down a hallucinatory rabbit hole of sex, magic, revenge – and kittens” – and finding the title intriguing, I added it to my watchlist. Brand New Cherry Flavor delivers (and then some) on all those promises.
Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar) is the beautiful young filmmaker whose dream is to turn her short film into a feature, and direct it herself. That appears to be on the way to coming true when she meets heavyweight producer Lou Burke (Eric Lange) and he immediately options the movie.
But then something happens to make him change his mind and suddenly she’s off the project. Enraged, Lisa approaches a weird woman (Catherine Keener) who helps Lisa put a curse on Lou which will “burn down his life”.
This is still not even the weird part.
There are – in no particular order – zombies, drugs, a witch, creepy spirits, puked up kittens, gruesome murders, decapitations, graphic violence and just plain gruesome scenes – mostly related to eyes – and quite frankly the most bizarre sex scene I’ve ever witnessed … and that’s saying something.
There is an overload of “eeew”, tempered by “just so strange it’s funny and you can’t help a little snort of laughter in spite of yourself”, an Olympian amount of “what the actual…?”, and at the same time, face in cushion or not, you simply can’t stop watching, whether on a surface level or if you’re looking for some deeper meaning, symbolism and relevance, like the reviewer from Screen Rant: “Brand New Cherry Flavor smartly uses the animals to flesh out a well-known tale of entertainment industry-related power dynamics, disillusionment, and unfairness that have become increasingly exposed in the recent years since predatory stories – like those involving Harvey Weinstein and similar figures – first broke on a wide scale. And it does all of that while being an engrossing and pleasantly odd eight-episode ride.”
It might be easy to dismiss this as an over-the-top whack job of a series, but there are various references, homages and Easter eggs to horror classics, Bloody Disgusting tells us: “The works of David Lynch, David Cronenberg, George Romero, and Sam Raimi are referenced throughout.” (That link contains a video released by Netflix to explain these if you missed them – contains spoilers!).