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  • Writer's pictureSusannah Powers Stengel

Brand New Cherry Flavor: Hex, Eyes, and Videotape


Spoilers For: Some Small Episodic Details for Ep. One and Two, but I keep my overall flavor pretty pure.

What would you do to claw your way to the top?

Netflix's new surreal, freaky fairy tale limited series, Brand New Cherry Flavor, ponders this juicy thought as it serves sincere scares and paints the misogynistic horror of L.A.'s 1990 film industry. Cherry Flavor reimagines the woman-done-wrong-now-bad-patriarch-will-pay narrative with the unpredictability of vengeance made magical. Led by a cast of morally defunct protagonists one and all, we take an escalator ride through some of the most staggeringly visually disturbing sequences I have ever seen. It's absolutely delicious and beware: DO NOT WATCH BEFORE BED (unless you're not a punk like me).

When amateur filmmaker Lisa Nova (played by Rosa Salazar to cold yet boiling perfection) gets the opportunity to show her short paranoia thriller film to big time (if washed up) producer Lou Burke (greasy, jagged, hilarious Jeff Ward), she jumps at her chance to start her career. Alas, their joyful mentorship is not to be, when Lou ultimately steals Lisa's film and dupes her out of protecting her intellectual property. What follows next are an electric series of occurrences that would make David Lynch salivate. We learn:

Magic is real.

Witch-guide-torture-artist-diva Boro (played to eerie effect by Catherine Keener) has that magic.

There's something wrong with Lisa's eyes.

Pubes are a vital ingredient in certain magical curses.

But most vitally of all:

To hurt others successfully, we must ourselves suffer.

Allow me to cherry pick a few tasty morsels--reasons to fill your face with a mouthful of Brand New Cherry Flavor.

1. It’s an innovative dark fairy tale.

We've got terrifying beasts of prey. We've got callous, bloodthirsty villains. We've got potions. We've got curses and zombies, bad contracts and impossible quests. We've got haunted waifs chased by vicious henchmen. The tropes are buried in gore, synthesized by a 1990's filter, and drenched in hate, but the modern fairy tale lives on in Cherry Flavor.

2. The sets are sumptuous perfection.

The interconnected deathtrap highway system of L.A. sings through your screen. A derelict, if spacious living space comes alive with a supernatural plant that bursts through the ceiling, growing ever more. A producer's velveteen home theatre sets the stage for his gritty betrayal. The kitsch indulgence of a motel lamp that doubles as an angel statue juxtaposes an incredibly confusing sex scene. A witch's lair hypnotizes with its treasures unknown. The world of Cherry Flavor is at once knowable--garages and dinner tables, diners and hotel rooms--and unknowable--a space for terror, a space of fantastical, sick imagination. Each spatial zone is executed with creativity, discomfort, and poise.

3. The body horror will make your skin crawl.

Alas, our wily, hellbent, but guileless protagonist Lisa Nova makes one shit deal after another. She barters her time, her inner darkness, and her physical safety, all in pursuit of Lou Burke's demise. Boro forges a symbiotic connection between Lou and Lisa. The various impacts of this bond?

The most uniquely disgusting vomit scenes I have ever witnessed.

Skin ripped open.

That open skin poked and jabbed and caressed again and again.

Lost minds.

Burning flesh.

Eyeballs in hands. Eyeballs in mouths. Eyeballs on the ground.

An eternal case of the hiccups.

The sheer variety and dementedness of the body horror necessitates both severe repulsion (one sequence actually made me almost puke my dinner) and sick pleasure (I squealed with hysterical confused laughter again and again). I think the special quality of the source text is worth celebrating here. (This limited series is based on a novel with the same title by Todd Grimson.)

4. The cast is phenomenal.

Truly heavy hitters without exception. Plus, we get Jason from The Good Place (Manny Jacinto plays Lisa's friend Code and I just can't get enough of him on screen)!

Don't try to apply the wheel of logical causality or traditional narrative pacing to this project. It's a freak of genre. Embrace your angry freak within and try Brand New Cherry Flavor today. Now with 30% more kittens!

What's your favorite freaky TV? Comment below!


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