In almost all of the eight episodes of Netflix limited series Brand new cherry flavor, the protagonist draws up a living kitten. It is not a euphemism. Each time, she doubles up, cramps in pain and rises until a slimy mass leaves her mouth and squirts on the floor. On closer inspection, it is always an angry newborn kitten with wet white fur. A zombie then collects the smuggling kitten and brings it to a witch who drinks its blood. It’s important to know all this in advance by diving into the show, because it’s not the wildest thing Brand new cherry flavor have to wait. Things are getting wilder. And significantly coarser.
It’s not necessarily obvious from the start. Brand new cherry flavor begins clearly by comparison: Film Director Lisa N. Nova (Alita: Battle Angel star Rosa Salazar) arrives in Hollywood in the early 90s with a shocking short film under her belt, determined to expand it into a feature film debut. Much of the first episode is dedicated to the work that goes into being noticed in Hollywood: parties and meetings and conversations over drinks, all suspect and soaked in ominous light because exploitation is in the air. Then, Nova meets producer-director Lou Burke (Eric Lange), who agrees to help her realize her vision. But he betrays her, so she asks a witch (Catherine Keener) to curse him, which ends up costing more than Nova had anticipated.
The first and easiest mistake in the size of this occult horror-noir from Channel zero creator Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion would be reducing it to its all-too-obvious influences. Frankly, Brand new cherry flavor emerges as a shameless ripoff of David Lynch and Cronenberg. The former is clearly seen in the lens the series takes to Los Angeles, an obsession with intimidating, winding highways and junky dreamy imagery. The latter comparison comes when Brand new cherry flavor digs into its occult elements, all of which come with a healthy amount of body dismay.
Brand new cherry flavor – the mildly disgusting title comes from the novel of the same name by Todd Grimson, but is never really explained – is not terribly clever in crawling from two of the film’s most beloved weirdo writers. Most of its images are reminiscent of better projects like Mulholland Drive or existence, but Antosca and Zion’s commitment to telling a deeply disturbing occult story is, for lack of a better word, breathtaking.
Despite the seemingly endless possibilities that streaming time brought, I am hard pressed to think about the last thing I saw, this was the devil gross. Stews of raw rodent intake are ingested, repellents are extracted and injected, and there is a sex scene I would rather not talk about. This does Cherry flavor feel disorienting and oppressive in a way that reflects Lisa Nova’s descent into Los Angeles’ occult underworld, where terrible things are done in exchange for power and influence.
But Brand new cherry flavor hangs over the first shock of disgust. It’s a story of power and exploitation, a dark revenge thriller about a woman who wants to punish the powerful man who iced her out of his own dream. The series uses its occult twist to complicate its story in compelling ways. Its portrayal of art and witchcraft is not so different: the show’s characters both see it as selfish acts that always cost a hefty price, one that the perpetrators may not be willing to pay.
The barefoot kittens are, of course, a metaphor. Boro, the witch, tells Lisa that there is something special inside her and that the price of the curse Lisa is seeking will be a regular taste of that essence. Lisa does nothing after arriving in Los Angeles, but the story never leaves the audience forgetting that she is one artist, and that her art cost something. Across eight sections, the authors of Brand new cherry flavor claims that these are both dangerous things: People need to be careful when committing a spell or art because they never know what they might find spilling from their mouths further down the line.
Brand new cherry flavor launches on Netflix on Friday, August 13th.
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