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Netflix's Brand New Cherry Flavor is a mindf*ck in the best ways

  • "Daring to tackle material that recalls David Lynch’s deconstructions of the surrealism of Hollywood in projects like Mulholland Dr., it's as ambitious as anything Netflix has produced this year," says Brian Tallerico. "Held together by an incredible performance by Rosa Salazar, it’s not a show in which everything 'works,' but it’s also quickly easy to forgive its missteps because it’s clearly the product of a showrunner willing to take risks, something we still don’t see nearly enough of even in what should be the more creatively robust world of streaming television. Give me a series that takes big swings and I'll forgive it for missing a few pitches. Recalling everything from Wild Palms to Lost Highway, Brand New Cherry Flavor will be far too strange for a lot of Netflix subscribers—this is a good thing."


    • Brand New Cherry Flavor may be the grossest thing you see this year: "In spite of the seemingly endless possibilities brought on by the streaming era, I’m hard-pressed to think of the last thing I saw that was this f*cking gross," says Joshua Rivera. "Stews of raw rodent entrails are consumed, repulsive substances are extracted and injected, and there’s a sex scene I’d rather not talk about. This makes Cherry Flavor feel disorienting and oppressive in a way that mirrors Lisa Nova’s descent into Los Angeles’ occult underworld, where horrible things are done in exchange for power and influence. But Brand New Cherry Flavor lingers beyond that initial shock of revulsion. It’s a story about power and exploitation, a dark revenge thriller about a woman who wants to punish the powerful man who iced her out of her own dream. The series uses its occult twist to complicate its story in compelling ways. Its portrayal of art and witchcraft aren’t that dissimilar: The show’s characters view both as selfish acts that always come at a steep cost, one that the perpetrators might not be willing to pay."
    • Brand New Cherry Flavor is a scattered tale of vengeance and ownership that is lucky to have Rosa Salazar as its star: The limited series "is moreso impressed with its own daring to Go There, or to be as disgusting as the freedom of a streaming service will grant it," says Caroline Framke. A dark and twisty series that delights in getting truly gross, Netflix’s newest tells a scattered tale of vengeance and ownership that’s lucky to have a stellar performance at its center. Brand New Cherry Flavor — adapted by Channel Zero producers Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion from the novel by Todd Grimson — feels like an R.L. Stine book come to visceral life, if Stine’s Goosebumps series were rebooted for the adult David Lynch devotees his imaginative kid audience eventually became. The series takes place in a neon-tinged, pulpy version of early ’90s Los Angeles that owes more than a little to horror B movies and paperback books that historically have existed in media’s margins. To this long avowed horror wimp, though, the show isn’t particularly frightening so much as unsettling (though I wouldn’t recommend that anyone follow in my footsteps by trying to eat lunch while watching it — a huge, if obvious, mistake)." Framke adds: "Salazar is the show’s clear star, making it plain why experimental shows and films like Undone and Alita: Battle Angel have depended upon her magnetic performances to keep them somewhat grounded. Even when the series loses track of who Lisa is as a character, Salazar rarely does. No matter how hyperbolic a scene gets, she imbues every one of them with vivid emotion that almost — almost — grounds the show’s self-consciously weird reality. Any time Brand New Cherry Flavor gets specific about Lisa’s pain, it comes close to working."
    • Brand New Cherry Flavor is trippy, lurid, defiantly weird and knows what it's doing: "The version of Hollywood depicted in the eight-episode series is one prone to going feathery at the edges, the way films like Barton Fink address the notion of Los Angeles as 'The Dream Factory' by forcibly smearing it into the realm of surreal nightmare," says Glen Wheldon. "Which is not to say that Brand New Cherry Flavor doesn't succeed in telling its own strange, gruesome, often humorous tale (it's remarkable how well it manages to be dryly funny amid all its wet gore). I cite the filmmakers to which the series is indebted simply to acknowledge that all of its borrowing is clearly both intentional and deliberate." 
    • Brand New Cherry Flavor may be the best showcase yet for Rosa Salazar: "If you have a loopy film or TV premise that requires massive audience buy-in of the sort only a truly committed central performance can engender, having Rosa Salazar as your star is a tremendous boon," says Daniel Fienberg. "In just the past five years, Salazar has been integral to helping sell the imaginative whimsy of Man Seeking Woman, the technological ambition of Alita: Battle Angel and the rotoscoped philosophical madness of Undone. Salazar makes interesting choices and her commitment to those oddities is reliably worth watching. Netflix’s new horror-satire Brand New Cherry Flavor may be the best showcase yet for Salazar and her ability to carry a project that, with a different lead, would have collapsed under the weight of its self-conscious weirdness. She’s funny, sympathetic and possessed of an off-kilter energy that represents the best aspects of the limited series around her. She isn’t the only reason to watch Brand New Cherry Flavor, but she’s surely the best reason to keep watching a show that, stretched far beyond the capacity of the material at eight hours, will probably be too disturbing for those who like their entertainment vanilla and too vanilla for those who like their entertainment truly and consistently disturbing."
    • Few series this year prove as adept at translating stress into visual form: "Whether by shades of degrees or through a kilowatt jolt of nervous energy, Brand New Cherry Flavor feasts on the insecurities of both character and viewer, even as it veers toward a brewing showdown that covers far more than rights of first refusal. Pilot director Arkasha Stevenson (another Channel Zero alum) and the rest of the season’s directors (Gandja Monteiro, Matt Sobel, Jake Schreier, and Antosca) each offer their own ever-so-distinct takes, each insidious in their own way and bathed in a lava-lamp rainbow palette that drives home the dreamlike feel of this particular rabbit hole," says Steve Greene. "Credit also to DP Celiana Cárdenas, whose camera never moves along the same plane twice, taking in as much of this world’s detail as possible without taking focus away from the key developments happening within the frame." Greene adds: "The new limited series has plenty more on its mind than aping a particular time and place. Brand New Cherry Flavor carries all the psychological trappings that come with the curdled glamor of Los Angeles, but this is a specific kind of Hollywood story; one that exists in its own self-contained universe, detached from a conventional decade-signaling aesthetic. Very quickly, the show establishes its primary concern isn’t enduring stardom or lavish luxury. It’s a supernatural revenge tale brought on by what’s ostensibly a simple legal dispute."
    • Brand New Cherry Flavor is ballsy but hollow: "Few things are more frustrating to watch than a show that is all style and very little substance," says Candice Frederick. "But the themes of Netflix’s new Gothic horror series, Brand New Cherry Flavor, are so resonant and timely that it wouldn’t be entirely fair to accuse it of that offense even though it makes no good use of them. Instead, the show overcompensates by using horror staples like the undead, a witch’s curse and a classic rock soundtrack to cover up what it lacks — a point. And yet the premise is so promising! Creators Lenore Zion and Nick Antosca present a dark fiction piece set in early-’90s Los Angeles that hinges on the terrible treatment of female filmmakers whose work is often ignored or even co-opted by greedy, old white men with more clout. This still happens, with myriad think pieces interrogating the problem, and particularly to young non-American directors like the protagonist in Brand New Cherry Flavor. Exploring their boiling hot rage on account of this is ripe for genre material. But does this show really do that? Eh, not really."
    • Brand New Cherry Flavor is an acquired taste that serves up empty calories: "If you're the type who enjoys consuming an eight-episode limited series and thinking 'What the heck did I just watch?' when it's over, Brand New Cherry Flavor might be for you," says Brian Lowry. "Otherwise, this bizarre Netflix drama will likely be an acquired taste, mashing up bad-old Hollywood with the supernatural, witchcraft and kittens, not always in that order." He adds: "For the first few episodes, the series -- adapted by Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion -- effectively pulls the audience along, so strange and creepy it's hard not to be curious about who Lisa is, what's unique about her and where all of this might be heading. Yet as is frequently the case with such fare, the destination doesn't justify the trip, which is filled with unsettling and occasionally gruesome imagery that begins to feel as if it's more the point of the story than a means of telling it. The result oozes atmosphere, but it's a sugary high without much substance. It's a bit of a shame, since Salazar proves a fine lead as the wide-eyed newcomer, experiencing the entertainment industry and its most unsavory tics before the #MeToo movement, when sexism, misogyny and unvarnished greed didn't need to hide in the shadows."
    • How Brand New Cherry Flavor created its Crazy Kitten sequence

    TOPICS: Brand New Cherry Flavor, Netflix, Rosa Salazar