REVIEW: ‘Brand New Cherry Flavor’ Is a Horror-Fueled Fever Dream

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Brand New Cherry Flavor - But Why Tho

Sometimes you watch a film and go “What did I just watch!?” and sometimes that’s a good thing, and others it’s a confusing thing. Other times, you come across a series where every episode makes you feel that way — that’s Brand New Cherry Flavor. The Netflix Original series starring Rosa Salazar is a horror-filled fever dream that uses cats, body horror, uncomfortable situations, and gore to construct a narrative built on magic and revenge. The series also stars Catherine Keener, Eric Lange, Jeff Ward, and Manny Jacinto, who all come together in a trippy narrative that hits the ground weird and gets weirder.

From Channel Zero alum Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion as the series showrunners, Brand New Cherry Flavor follows Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar), an ambitious director set on making her short film into a feature. Set in early 90s Hollywood, Lisa Nova will do whatever it takes to make her film, but when she thinks she’s caught her big break, it all crumbles. Signing a contract that sounds too good to be true, Lisa is backstabbed and loses her film right from under her. Pushed by revenge, Lisa tumbles down a hallucinatory rabbit hole of sex, magic, and newborn kittens by joining up with a witch (Catherine Keener). Oh, and zombies and hitmen, and a mysterious tattoo artist that promises to help with a curse or two.

Brand New Cherry Flavor is a terrifying mix of unsettling imagery, uncomfortable situations, and visual techniques set to mimic a drug-induced trip that makes for a limited series that confuses as much as it wows. Body horror is the name of the game in this series. While it utilizes other elements of horror – zombies, some things with plants, and some traditional demons – its foundation is the fear built up in the viewer by our bodies. More specifically, not being in control of our bodies and using them to pay for our dreams.

In truth, Brand New Cherry Flavor isn’t for the squeamish, with moments that make Channel Zero‘s teeth man seem a little tame. In fact, the best way to describe this limited series is a cross between the aesthetics and horrors of Channel Zero with the magical and menacing Hollywood showcased in The Neon Demon. The hopelessness of the city of dreams seems to be its own character. Lisa struggles to keep hold of her dream while she descends into a nightmare that moves from being horrifying and grotesque to fantastical and sexy.

Where there is horror in Brand New Cherry Flavor, the sex isn’t far behind, with one scene in Episode 4 that is there to make you squirm. And, well, a lot of scenes are like that. The limited series is overflowing with weirdness, and sometimes, it feels to do so without directly serving a purpose narratively. Moments and key visuals exist and will hold onto you, but because the series starts shocking and gets even more so as it continues, it makes it hard to savor any of them individually.

That said, while the weirdness and uncomfortable visuals overtake the storytelling, it doesn’t swallow its actors whole. In fact, Rosa Salazar more than rises to the task of holding the scene even when the weirdest things are happening. Someone extracting and eating bits of brain? Salazar keeps your focus. A hole in her side with a window into her abdomen? Salazar plays it up. Every bit of absurdity and bodily tension is improved by her character. This is largely due to how the audience roots for her and then slowly realizes that, well, she’s an awful person in her own right.

Salazar’s performance is the best of the show, and Catherine Keener keeps her pace. As Boro, a witch of sorts, Keener is chaotic and just gross. From what she eats to what she does to people’s bodies, all of it is a rotten and blooming core that Brand New Cherry Flavor’s horror and whimsy is built on. Because, I have to be honest, as gag-inducing as some scenes are, others showcase a whimsy and magic that isn’t about terror but awe instead.

Brand New Cherry Flavor has twists and subversions of expectation, and when it’s off its rails in the last half, it somehow works. It’s campy and strange, and I find myself struggling to contextualize how I feel about the series outside of just listing multiple adjectives that catch the swirling mess of genre elements that somehow go together. Even if it’s clear that a lot of parts exist to shock, with little else added.

Overall, Brand New Cherry Flavor is weird and gross and magical, and it’s not going to be for everyone. That said, if that is your jam, you’re going to be thrilled with the grime as much as the beauty. The blend of music, fashion, magic, sex, and horror work perfectly together. While it’s not without its faults, mainly a story that falls in places to uplift visuals, the limited series is one that genre fans will find themselves binging. Though I must stress if body horror, violence, or animal harm trigger a negative response from you in any way, this is one you should sit out.

Brand New Cherry Flavor is streaming exclusively on Netflix.

Brand New Cherry Flavor
  • 6.5/10
    Rating - 6.5/10
6.5/10

TL;DR

Overall, Brand New Cherry Flavor is weird and gross and magical, and it’s not going to be for everyone. That said, if that is your jam, you’re going to be thrilled with the grime as much as the beauty. The blend of music, fashion, magic, sex, and horror work perfectly together. While it’s not without its faults, mainly a story that falls in places to uplift visuals, the limited series is one that genre fans will find themselves binging. Though I must stress if body horror, violence, or animal harm trigger a negative response from you in any way, this is one you should sit out.