TV Review – Brand New Cherry Flavor

Brand New Cherry Flavor (Netflix)
Written by Lenore Zion & Nick Antosca, Mando Alvarado, Christina Ham, Alana B. Lytle & Haley Z. Boston, and Matt Fennell
Directed by Arkasha Stevenson, Gandja Monteiro, Matt Sobel, Jake Schreier, and Nick Antosca

Serialized horror has become increasingly popular over the last decade thanks to shows like American Horror Story and others it inspired. However, AHS is a program I gave up on because I personally did enjoy its brand of campy horror-comedy (and the steep decline of its writing). Instead, I really came to love the tragically short-lived Channel Zero, the brainchild of writer Nick Antosca. Antosca took internet-published stories called “creepypasta” and adapted them into season-long stories. While Channel Zero was canceled after four seasons, it has remained a cult favorite, and Antosca has turned that into other film & television opportunities. One of these has been to adapt the obscure 1990s horror novel Brand New Cherry Flavor by Todd Grimson.

Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar) is a passionate young director who arrives in Hollywood with her newly edited short film. She begins meeting with people who might help her turn it into a feature and decides to make a deal with producer Lou Burke (Eric Lange). Unfortunately, Lou almost immediately betrays Lisa by handing her film to a different director and boxing her out of the production. Enraged but powerless, Lisa fumes, wanting some way to strike back against this producer. As luck would have it, she runs into the strange witch Boro (Catherine Keener), who offers a chance at revenge, but at a cost. This meeting wasn’t by chance, though, and Boro knows something about Lisa and uses this agreement to begin wrapping her hands around it. Along the way, Lisa will make new friends and enemies while realizing the borders between herself and the spirit world are falling away.

I was blown away by how good this mini-series was. From episode one, the cinematography and editing are top-notch, with momentum moving the story forward, quickly introducing characters, and establishing relationships. If memory serves me, all but maybe one or two characters are introduced in episode one, and the rest of the series does a fantastic job developing them and even throwing twists at the audience. The three main characters have excellent performances, highlighting why casting is so important in any production. Even in movies that I didn’t care for, like Battle Angel Alita, Rosa Salazar has impressed me. In my opinion, Catherine Keener is always good, and she has the most challenging part of the show. Ironically enough, I’d just finished watching Quinton Review’s exhaustive video series on Victorious, a show I knew nothing about, and Lou is played by the same actor that portrayed the teacher in that Nickelodeon series. Eric Lange is so good, walking the tightrope of being a despicable bad guy but then showing vulnerability as he is absolutely savaged by Boro’s magic.

There has been a trend on TikTok of pointing viewers to a sex scene from the fifth episode of Brand New Cherry flavor. Yes, it is a strange sex scene resulting from Boro’s magic. However, within the show’s context, it doesn’t stand out as some exceptionally horrific moment. When viewed as part of the whole, it develops the relationship between Lisa and Tom Cruise-analog Roy Hathaway (Jeff Ward) and shows the extremes that this magic will take Lisa to. There are so many interesting, bizarre moments that the show thankfully doesn’t exposit into oblivion. We’re left to wonder what some things mean and eventually just embrace the chaotic aesthetic of Boro’s witchcraft.

Lisa and Boro are two fascinating characters to pit against each other as they are both so headstrong. Lisa will be forced to face down things straight out of nightmares, but she lets her anger and need for righteous justice plow straight through it all. There’s a great moment in the middle of the series where Boro takes Lisa to see what her life was like before embracing the magic she now uses. This involves meeting Boro’s abandoned family, a whole other life mere minutes away from her new home. There is so much humor and horror in this scene, both of our main characters refusing to back down while the strangers whose lives they have invaded are completely confused about what is happening.

Nick Antosca does a beautiful job of pushing things he loves into the spotlight that we might not know about. I’d never heard of author Todd Griscom, but I am eager to read through his work after watching this show. Unlike a showrunner like Ryan Murphy, each of Antosca’s productions feels aesthetically unique. Underneath it is a consistent dedication to atmosphere building, the most essential element of good horror. While I definitely miss the work he was doing on Channel Zero, I am looking forward to seeing what other projects he works on. Hoping that he can keep making content for Netflix, as what he does is a significant divergence from the majority of their output.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: