Brand New Cherry Flavor Series Review: A must watch for those interested in exploring the limits of the mind
An explosive and visceral journey of absurdity and surrealism that is bound to make a searing impression one way or another
Based on Todd Grimson’s novel of the same name, Brand New Cherry Flavor is one hallucinogen-infused trip not for the faint-hearted. The mind-bending, absurdist, and surreal Netflix original, falls somewhere along the spectrum of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Mullholand Drive. Set in LA of the early 90s, it stars a perfectly-cast Rosa Salazar as Lisa Nova – a young, intense, and supremely talented horror filmmaker on the cusp of making it big in the murky maze of Hollywood. There lies a catch, though. Her debut short film may be visceral and thought-provoking, but this is, as the producer Lou Burke (Eric Lange) puts it, “a world of predators and prey.” Be careful whom you trust, and refrain from signing on the dotted line before reading the fine print. Our vulnerable lead character finds out just how deep the rot goes after her trusting nature costs her. With luck firmly against Lisa and sinister designs at play, her need for revenge and wresting back power becomes the crux of the narrative.
Creators - Nick Antosca, Lenore Zion
Cast – Rosa Salazar, Catherine Keener, Eric Lange, Jeff Ward, Manny Jacinto
Streaming On – Netflix
She has lost creative control of her film by handing over the rights to a megalomaniacal producer. When she rebuffs his advances, he ensures that she’s kicked off the project as director (a verbal stipulation she had made at the very beginning). In a dark and depressed rage, she decides, with the assistance of a shaman, to put a curse on the blighted man bent on ruining her life and career. From the frying pan to the fire, as it appears, but one has to do what one has to do - with some prodding, obviously. When Lisa first meets the bohemian woman Boro (Catherine Keener) at an A-listers’ gathering, the latter says, “For you? I could hurt someone.” Though she initially brushes it off as a deranged person’s failed attempt at conversation, her interest is piqued. As she stumbles to figure out how to take Lou and his hubris down, she visits Boro at her greenhouse-like mansion, only to go down another rabbit hole she doesn’t foresee for herself. When you make a deal with the Devil, you may eventually get what you wish for, but there are consequences for every choice.
The skilfully adapted limited series unfolds as a Kafkaesque nightmare on steroids. Whether it is in dealings with Lou or pacts with Boro, Lisa realises, rather quickly, that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you want something badly, be prepared to sacrifice something of equal measure in return. Even her highly unsettling short film has demons attached to its conception – demons that will eventually pay her multiple visits. A common theme running through the 8-episode miniseries is that of vengeance, and how far one is willing to go in pursuit of those who wronged them. I could see the surreal narrative - curses, apparitions, magic stews, regurgitated felines, un-dead beings, drugs and a complex subconscious in tow – as a metaphor for the price one pays to be an original artist. Lisa embarks on a tortuous journey for the sake of the one thing she cares for above all else – her film! With her uncompromising vision at the front and centre, it is no wonder she goes through all that she does.
When she insists that she will be the one directing the full-length feature, Lou tells Lisa, “I mean, a rookie director is a tough sell. You’d have to sell yourself as a...young female Cronenberg.” With so many facets going for it, it would be hard not to impress the famous director with this fine and fascinating creation that has the power to push the limits of your consciousness. Even the film-within-a-film device is an ingenious touch that adds to the drama and intrigue. In spite of highly engaging performances courtesy lead Rosa Salazar and Eric Lange, it is Catherine Keener’s Boro that remains the absolute standout. The manipulative bohemian is the most destructive piece on which this horror fantasy hinges. Call her a witch, a shaman or a priestess of the dark arts, one thing she most certainly is, is a badass one must avoid messing with. Her nonchalant tone and calm demeanour only succeed in reinforcing the range of her boundless power. Pleasantries, threats and ultimatums are delivered in the same half-smiling, laidback way. As in Get Out, Keener’s cool and calculated menace appears all too apparent, all too frightening.
With its extravagant vision adapted for the screen, Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion’s limited series also makes one laugh at its black comedic take on the absurdity at hand. The fact that Brand New Cherry Flavor cannot be slotted neatly into a box just goes to show how impressive the creation truly is. A must watch for those who enjoy exploring the boundaries of their conscious and subconscious mind.