Brand New Cherry Flavour is one of Netflix’s most bold and ballsy projects, playing to a very niche audience with a tone, narrative and title that’s certainly not going to draw in mass crowds at first glance. Creators Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion have taken the 1996 source material and crafted this auteurist vision – a heavily stylised narrative that goes much deeper than is initially anticipated.
The narrative follows Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar), an aspiring film director trying to catch her big break 1990 Los Angeles. However, her dreams are seemingly cut short when she’s betrayed and embarks on a mission of revenge, sending her down some very dark paths. The stellar pilot episode makes one thing known for sure, beyond being a classic revenge tale, it’s also going to heavily explore the shadiness of early-90’s Hollywood and the personalities who are in control. This is a major theme throughout the series, one that is touched on quite regularly and never forgotten about, even despite Lisa Nova’s concerns becoming much more deadly than she imagined. Throughout the episode there’s bursts of mystery and suspense, as well as moments designed to make you uncomfortable and instantly get on Lisa’s side. The defining moment at the end of the first episode brilliantly thrusts the series in a truly insane direction that it’s clear there’s no coming back from. The mysterious, ominous and unsettling atmosphere is doubled down and you’re stuck on this deranged journey through Lisa’s harrowing battles and experiences with the supernatural.
What follows is a dark, weird, creepy, gory, disturbing and messed up sequence of mind-fucking events all presented through a strangely Lynchian lens. Brand New Cherry Flavour is a terrifyingly modern piece of surrealist cinema – with the undisputed king of surrealism in film of course being the wonderful David Lynch. Through a neon-tinted vision of LA, some distorted audio and visuals, commentary on Hollywood, strictly atmospheric horror and a quirky representation of the supernatural, this is as close as you can get to a Lynchian project without having the man himself on board. Marry those elements with the brutality of a David Cronenberg film and you have this wonderful work of art. That’s really what this is deep down – a flawlessly-presented work of surrealist art that exceeds expectations and excels in delivering a true vision and tight narrative with a beginning, middle and end.
Speaking of art, this series is an achievement is cinematography. Celiana Cárdenas has crafted a breathtakingly beautiful look into 90s LA with the way she frames, shoots and lights each and every scene – especially those shot at night. I’d regularly find myself entirely hooked into a scene solely due to the mind-bending manner in which she’d have chose to shoot it – typically in a matter that’s rather confronting. There’s a specific sequence that’s shot in a manner that had me feeling like it was ripped right out of Twin Peaks: The Return.
Beneath all of those artistic elements of surrealism and thematic good vs evil content, the thrilling, unsettling and at times truly horrifying narrative continues to unfold over the course of the season. You can be sure that predictability is almost entirely out the window with this series as regular twists and turns continue to complicate Lisa’s journey way beyond just a simple act of revenge. It does a fantastic job in never giving you too much to where you have all the answers, while giving you just enough to ensure there’s not a moment of downtime where you’re waiting for something to happen. There may be a lot of moments where the sheer weirdness and brutality of what’s going on will leave you with no idea where things are going, but that just leads to the art of surprise when new details finally come to light. The downside to this is that it can cause viewers to get inflated expectations – resulting in disappointment – however I loved every creative, stylistic and narrative decision made in this series.
At the dead centre of this series is the undeniably phenomenal lead performance from Rosa Salazar. Her character has a deep history and complex personality, and is experiencing things no human has ever experienced – so it’s astounding to see how Rosa plays off every moment so convincingly. She delves completely role, not once breaking stride and guides the audience through every single weird and messed up scene. She pulls off this take-no-shit attitude really damn well, and it allows the audience to unambiguously root for her in every moment. Then there’s Catherine Keener who is great as the mysterious Boro. This role could have felt so out of place if Catherine over-exaggerated the dialogue and played it all too quirky. However, she brings this grounded touch to the character which makes her feel quite legit and believable despite her practices being quite the opposite.
In the end, I absolutely loved everything this limited series had to offer. Brand New Cherry Flavour quite possibly my favourite series of the year, to date. Certain narrative decisions may turn people off, but there’s not a single story-driven moment I’d change. I could go into specifics a little more, but I’d like to conceal as much of the mystery as possible, since going into this as blind as you can will certainly heighten the overall experience. There are maybe one or two questions I have about the overall narrative that could be cleared up with a more thorough second viewing, but otherwise this is a very dark, ominous and thrilling series that had me hooked from beginning to end. It’s weird, disturbing, violent and stylised with a heavy dose of surrealism that only makes it even more shocking and unsettling. I’m disappointed that this is a limited series as I’d kill for more of this strange and bizarre Lynchian horror content on Netflix. All I know is, I’ll have my eyes on these creators going forward, as they’ve created something truly special here that I could see myself revisiting.