Courtesy of Netflix

It’s often that a series is so surprising and different that I binge through it in a day for review. The weirder, or more eccentric, the better in my book. And, with the arrival of BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR, viewers are going to get all of that and then some. From the twisted minds of Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion, the creators of Channel Zero, this nightmare-induced adaptation of Todd Grimson’s BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR is niche. It might not be something the typical Netflix viewer would respond well to. However, for those who are fans of genre fare, specifically the horror genre, there is much to enjoy from this strange, fever dream of a series.

BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR stars Rosa Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel, Bird Box), Catherine Keener (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Get Out), Eric Lange (“Sam & Cat”, “Perry Mason”), Jeff Ward (“Channel Zero: No-End House,” “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D”), Manny Jacinto (“The Good Place”, Bad Times at the El Royale), among others.

The limited series follows Lisa N. Nova (Rosa Salazar) who arrives in Los Angeles determined to direct her first movie, Lucy’s Eye. Unfortunately, she learns the harsh reality of the business when she trusts the wrong producer, Lou Burke (Eric Lange), who takes the only thing that matters to her away. Bent on revenge, Lisa meets up with Boro (Catherine Keener), a strange person who knows an awful lot for a stranger. But Boro promises Lisa that she can have her revenge. However, as many know, revenge comes with a price. It’s not long before the quest for revenge devolves into literal nightmares, strange trips, zombies, hit jobs, and so many precious little kittens that made me baby talk to the screen. There are secrets to be discovered and wild rides for viewers to go on during this eight-episode series.

ROSA SALAZAR as LISA NOVA

As a whole, BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR is not for the faint of heart. It also requires a semblance of disbelief because a whole heck of a lot happens. Body horror is a clear defining presence in this series, with gaping wounds, zombification, mutilation, and more. As a person who generally is unphased by wounds and such, there’s one particular scene that nearly undid me, and is likely to be the focus of many chats about the series in the future. The quality of the horror is amplified by A-game performances, well-utilized camera angles, quality FX work, and its feverish lighting. Seriously, a major shout-out to Cinematographer Celiana Cárdenas for the visual beauty viewers get to put in their eyeballs. Everything said the series will not hesitate to make viewers uncomfortable with its mostly body horror-driven elements.

The over-the-top crazy nature of the storylines presented in this series could have easily overwhelmed a less capable cast. However, all actors involved in this production showcase their skill, and how ready they are to lean into whatever gets thrown at them. From various body horror moments, zombification, etc., there is nothing this cast won’t jump to do, and it’s great to see such commitment onscreen. This is especially so with Rosa Salazar who, quite frankly, IS Lisa Nova. It’s been great watching Salazar getting attention for her work over the years, but BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR is a tableau of everything she can carry off and more. She commands the viewers’ attention and makes everything that’s happening onscreen believable even when it is at its most batshit. That takes true skill. Especially when each episode requires Salazar to puke up a kitten at least once.

Catherine Keener and Eric Lange make great work of their characters too. Catherine Keener’s Boro is fun, yet mysterious. A seemingly all-knowing enigma with a punk flavor. The character is chaos and, due in part to Keener’s portrayal, viewers may find themselves being drawn to her.  This is despite all of the truly horrendous things Boro does onscreen. Eric Lange has the devil’s job of portraying sleazy Hollywood producer, Lou Burke, and handles it with aplomb. A character that could have easily been rendered a caricature is given depth by Lange. It won’t stop anyone from not wanting to punch the character, mind you. But Lange provides a humanity that grounds the character, and makes you want to watch to see what happens to Lou Burke next.

(L to R) JEFF WARD as ROY HARDAWAY and ERIC LANGE as LOU BURKE

The below-the-line departments all equally deserve a shoutout because, without them, the visual makeup and flow of BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR most likely would not have come together like it did in the final product. The makeup department had their work cut out for them, between creating flesh wounds, zombies, and more. Yet, whether it was tackling the standard 90s makeup trends or handling fake eyes, the team nailed it. Production Designer Troy Hansen created a visual look for the film that radiates off the screen, capturing the timeless quality of Los Angeles. Set Decorators Laurin Guthrie and Victoria Pearson had a hard task ahead of them, as many of the sets had a different vibe and feel based on what is seen onscreen, but I’d say they knocked it out of the park in giving each set location a clear identity.

Overall, reviewers have been given the Devil’s task to try to convey to viewers what BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR truly encompasses. It’s fascinating. It’s trippy. There’s not a single character that is pure and good. In fact, nearly everyone onscreen has an ounce of sin and darkness within their soul. In the pursuit of the Hollywood dream, when taking a step back, the series highlights on a lesser scale the lengths people will go in the industry. It also highlights the internal journey some must take to engage with their shadow selves, even when they are not particularly ready, as we’ve seen with the character of Lisa Nova. While the series does go off the rails at times, this is a must-binge for fans of the horror genre. If you are not particularly fond of gore, violence, or animal harm, tread with caution if you put on BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR.

BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR is now available exclusively on Netflix. All images courtesy Netflix.

Sarah Musnicky
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