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‘Brand New Cherry Flavor’: Blood, gore, magic, sex and kittens

| Monday, September 27, 2021

Doug Abell

New Netflix limited series “Brand New Cherry Flavor” is a harrowing story following a young filmmaker as she navigates the process of securing a deal for her first Hollywood project. Showrunners Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion combine visceral gore effects, brilliant performances, excellent editing and a gripping plot to create a highly bingeable final product.

The show begins when, following the release of her latest short film, independent filmmaker Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar) meets with Hollywood producer Lou Burke (Eric Lange) to discuss adapting her piece to make it a feature-length project. Lisa rushes into a contract with Lou; however, after she rebuffs his sexual advances, Lou kicks Lisa off of the project and takes it for himself. Hell-bent on getting her project back — and on burning Lou’s life to the ground — Lisa seeks out Boro (Catherine Keener), a local witch, to put a curse on him. What follows is a gripping trip through the seedy underbelly of Hollywood rife with blood, gore, magic, sex and kittens. It’s a weird show; there’s no way around that. However, despite being marketed as a horror series, the drama takes center stage, with the horror elements accentuating the drama rather than overwhelming it. But be warned: This does not mean that the show is for the squeamish, as it still has some absolutely shudder-inducing body horror and gore effects.

What I find most interesting about “Brand New Cherry Flavor” is that, despite the fact the Lou is literally the worst, he is still written sympathetically. As a result, when Lisa’s curse takes hold and his life begins to fall apart, the audience, much like Lisa, begins to feel bad for Lou.

Such feelings of sympathy emerge along with the question of whether this (Lou’s demise) is really what we want to happen in the first place. After all, no one in this show is wholly good — even Lisa, the person for whom we are supposed to root, has a level of moral ambiguity to her. The depth of character in this show is truly astounding. What the writers manage to achieve over the course of eight episodes is a marvel to behold. I would place these characters on the level of those from “The Haunting of Hill House” as some of the most compelling that Netflix has produced.

These well-written characters are made all the more compelling by the brilliant performances of Rosa Salazar, Eric Lange and Catherine Keener. All three are firing on all cylinders and help to elevate the series from a less campy “American Horror Story” to an absolute must-watch drama. I was especially impressed by Eric Lange’s portrayal of Lou. I had only ever seen him as Sikowitz in “Victorious” and was pleasantly surprised to see him absolutely killing it in a serious role.

On to the most important thing in every horror series: Gore. The special effects on display here are fantastic. There’s something here for everyone. The body horror on display in “Brand New Cherry Flavor” is particularly noteworthy. Some of the effects were enough to make me squirm, which is, in my estimation, the highest compliment I can pay a special effects artist.

“Brand New Cherry Flavor” provides a perfect example of how to pace a series: it moves at a breakneck pace and never once lets up. This, in conjunction with the masterfully written plot, makes “Brand New Cherry Flavor” nigh impossible to turn off once you start watching. Roll with the weirdness of the plot, and you’ll be rewarded. I’m honestly surprised that there hasn’t been a ton of buzz about this show, given that it has everything necessary for a Netflix phenomenon (except for hype). Hopefully, audiences will take note soon. Don’t be surprised if this show starts to develop a following over the course of the next few months.

Title: “Brand New Cherry Flavor”

Starring: Rosa Salazar, Eric Lange, Catherine Keener

Directors: Nick Antosca, Lenore Zion

Genre: Drama, Horror

If you liked: “The Haunting of Hill House,” “American Horror Story,” “Channel Zero”

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

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