Released on August 13, 2021, this Netflix Original “Limited Series” generated a lot of buzz. At least in my circles on Twitter.
People told me I needed to check it out, some said it was pretty ok but nothing amazing, but overall the feedback was such that I decided it sounded fun so… Why not?
I’m not going to break down things episode by episode here, but there may be some slight spoilers though I’ll try to keep this as spoiler free as possible. You’ve been warned, so read on at your own risk.
Let’s look at Brand New Cherry Flavor – A Netflix Original
I’ll be honest. I didn’t look too deeply into this before diving in. All I knew is that it was a fun, sort of throwback style, horror/thriller series with some pretty fun twists and well shot visual aspects.
For those of you that want a little more thorough explanation, let me try to summarize it in as “NON-SPOILERY” way as possible. (Though again, very slight spoilers could slip in here but nothing that will take away from the series as a whole)
The series is set in the 90’s and follows the lead character of Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar), a young filmmaker headed to Hollywood to get her debut movie made. The series opens with a beauty of a scene that follows Lisa streaking down the highway in her car, pulling into a gas station to use the payphone and secure a place to stay for a few days with an ex boyfriend named Code (Manny Jacinto). As she talks on the phone we see this mysterious motorcycle rider pull in and seem to watch her, following as she leaves.
From there we follow Lisa through her meeting with Hollywood Producer, Lou Burke(Eric Lange) and he offers to get her movie made, has her sign a deal and gives her a $10,000 bonus up front to get an apartment.
Lisa tells Lou, as he’s trying to “coach her up”, that she wanted to make this movie in the hopes that her mother will see it and know it was her. We find out her mother left her as a child and she’s never met her, can’t even remember her face, but she’s hoping her film will reach her, speak to her, on a level that will let her know Lisa was her daughter.
Seemingly taking her under his wing and promising her the world, we find out he’s just another sleazy Hollywood type and while he IS wanting to get her film made because he feels it will be a huge hit(something he hasn’t had since the mid 80’s), he’s more interested in getting in her pants than being a mentor.
Lou brings her to a meeting to meet some important film executives, but proceeds to have the meetings without her after she declined his advances on the way to the party/meeting. At this time she meets the mysterious woman named Boro(Catherine Keener) who tells her she can help her. That she can HURT someone for Lisa if she wants her to. She vanishes back into the crowd before Lou returns, but not before showing Lisa she “has the power within her” to hurt him too.
When she declines his advances for a second time on the way home he leaves her on the side of the road and the next day she finds out from her ex, Code, that he’s fired her as the Director of HER film and instead brought on a clueless upstart Director in her place.
Don’t worry, I’m not spoiling much here… this is all just the setup for the mayhem that promises to ensue.
At this point Lisa visits Lou at his home, with his wife and kid present, and confronts him. He tries to tell her “it’s all just part of paying your dues” and that she “has to walk before she can run”. But when she calls him a washed up producer that hasn’t had a hit in a decade, he snaps and proceeds to not only throw her out of his house, but follows her to her car and proceeds to physically assault her. Choking her on the hood of her car as he threatens her to never show her face there again, she decides to visit Boro.
From there, things start to get weird and for the sake of spoilers, I won’t go any further with the recap.
What I will say is we see a bunch of odd stuff… from a disturbing appearance of multiple kittens to a form of zombie/voodoo magic, disgusting foods and rituals, and a lot of twists and turns that all add up to make this series a whole lot of fun… for the most part.
Are there some odd plot holes?
Graphic violence and disturbing imagery that doesn’t REALLY add that much to the story?
A totally bizarre sex scene between Lisa and Hollywood Super Star Roy Hathaway(Jeff Ward)?
You got it.
Look, it’s a fun thriller/horror story. And like a good many stories in this genre of series and films, it’s got it’s problems. These types of movies don’t tend to win a lot of praise from those places “higher up” in the film industry, looking at you Oscars.
But, if you love these types of stories I think you are probably used to sort of just going with the flow and accepting some pretty illogical leaps in the storytelling. I mean, it’s not a cliche that the victim ALWAYS runs back INTO danger vs making the logical choice and driving away, for no reason. It’s just how these stories tend to go.
That being said, some of them are much stronger(and better) than others. And Brand New Cherry Flavor is in the upper half of those that get it mostly right.
Up until the very last couple minutes.
For me, that is where this whole series lands with a resounding and unsatisfying splat. They really built things up hard in one direction only to completely ignore that and essentially just “wrap it up”.
It’s an ending that feels rushed and wasted, and it left me with a pretty bad taste in my mouth. I get what they did with the ending and WHY they did it. I won’t say what they did with the ending because I don’t want to spoil it, but for Lisa… making the decision to choose her independence vs yet another master DOES make sense.
It’s just that it wasn’t satisfying as a viewer. Your mileage may vary.
I did end up rating this a 3 out 5 stars, and wanted to give it 2.5 out of 5 right after it finished, all because of the last 5 minutes. That being said, prior to that it was a solid 4 star fun romp that the more I think about it the more I feel it’s well deserving of that 3 out of 5 stars and likely edges closer to that initial 4 star feel.
A couple quick things to mention.
First, while this series is supposed to be set in the 90’s and by and large sort of captures that feel with the clothing and sets… the fact it’s “in the 90’s” really doesn’t add to the story at all. It’s not like “Stranger Things” where the nostalgia factor is super high and almost plays a character in and of itself.
It feels like the ONLY thing that was even remotely important to this film being set in the 90’s is that there were no cell phones for our characters to use when they get in a bind. Other than that, don’t look for much in the way of “nostalgia vibes”.
Second, while I don’t know that there is much more we need to see of Lisa’s story, I would be curious to see more about the conflict between Boro and the White Jaguar. Maybe something set in more modern times… or maybe something from the past. I think the concept of the “dark magics” involved has some fun future story potential should they choose to pursue it.
Third, I thought Rosa Salazar, Catherine Keener, Eric Lange, Jeff Ward, and even the sort of under-utilized Manny Jacinto all did a pretty nice job of selling their characters. Some of the other actors involved… not so much… they felt like set pieces more than characters, which is fine as they weren’t super important to the larger story.
Fourth, as I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed a whole bunch of the cinematography in this film. Some great color palettes complemented some terrific moody lighting that didn’t feel like a “typical” 80’s or 90’s era horror film.
If you enjoy the classic “B-Movie” horror and thriller fun from the past, I think you’ll enjoy Brand New Cherry Flavor.
Should you decide to give it a watch, or if you’ve already seen it, shoot me a message on social media @aicstories everywhere and let me know what you thought. Just keep the spoilers off the public spaces out of respect for those that haven’t seen it yet.