‘Brand New Cherry Flavor’ is strange, sexy yet incredibly disturbing as a TV horror

Brand New Cherry Flavor is probably one of the creepiest, strangest and grotesque, yet best limited series I have seen in a long long time.

Lisa N. Nova (Rosa Salazar) comes to LA dead set on directing her first movie. But when she trusts the wrong person and gets stabbed in the back, everything goes sideways and a dream project turns into a nightmare. This particular nightmare has zombies, hit men, supernatural kittens, and a mysterious tattoo artist who likes to put curses on people. And Lisa’s going to have to figure out some secrets from her own past in order to get out alive. — Netflix

The first scene opens with headlights shining down on smoky pavement in the middle of the road. A seemingly angsty young woman is driving in the middle of the night. She has a cigarette in hand and struggles to get the radio on. Phil Collins’ “Another Day In Paradise” goes on as she pulls into an empty gas station.

The noir, dark neon lights, early ’90s soundtrack and an independent woman driving on an empty road all sold me.

But little did I know the story was a lot more outlandish than its offset. Suddenly, we find that that young female filmmaker finds a mentor in Los Angeles filmmaker Lou Burke (Eric Lange), who sees her star and her talent, and is serious about working with her that he throws down a $10,000 check.

Lisa Nova, like many other struggling artists we know in Los Angeles, doesn’t seem to have a roof over her head or a place to stay. She seems removed from her family, finds comfort through bumming it out at her best friend Code’s (Manny Jacinto), and, as we come to learn, she is thrown into a world of sex, magic, blood and kittens — all because she wants to make her movie.

The series is funny and so God damn ridiculous, but I loved it. It’s surreal and bloody; it’s comical and sexy; there’s magic and kittens and some very graphic scenes of Lisa pushing her body to some very uncomfortable limits. Yet, it works. And I can’t get enough of how good Rosa Salazar’s performance was, and how perfectly cast it was.

Catherine Keener plays a mysterious Boro and honestly goes all in for the creepy witchery. She’s so unabashedly in the role, that I never questioned any of her antics. From the kittens and toads, magic potions and body manipulation of Lisa — it was absolutely disgusting in the best way possible.

Above all, Brand New Cherry Flavor pokes fun at the whole idea of fresh meat coming into Hollywood. Lou and Lisa’s complicated relationship is explored through a ridiculous and magical exaggeration of the hunger to stay relevant — or above it. It’s smart and sexy, yet shouldn’t be taken so seriously — and that’s what all the delightful insanity is all for.

It offers some pretty bold filmmaking, and Salazar’s magnetic performance keeps us grounded the entire time. Her palpable expressions and visceral emotions keep us glued while all hell breaks loose around her. She spirals down this rabbit hole of a hell of her own creation. And it’s pretty damn entertaining.

I’d watch it again for its cheeky horror, ’90s soundtrack, and Salazar.

“Brand New Cherry Flavor” premiered as an eight-episode series on Friday, Aug. 13, on Netflix.

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