BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR is one of those rare gems that finds the exact right Venn point between horror, comedy, and gonzo/cool without overplaying any of them. Telling the story of a curse and the power struggle between a young woman and a witch, it’s a hell of a good time, though its lack of a stronger resolution (with no sign of a second season) may disappoint some.
Based on the 1996 novel by Todd Grimson (which, bizarrely, you can only get in audiobook unless you’re in the UK, somewhere there’s an author and publisher crying over a major lost opportunity), this limited Netflix series follows Lisa Nova, a young filmmaker newly arrived in Los Angeles with a short horror film she recently shot at a house, where something bad happened. She gains the attention of Lou Burke, a powerful producer who hasn’t had a hit in years and wants to get her film made. Hollywood happens, leading to a confrontation in which Lisa contracts a witch to lay a powerful curse. But of course, all such services have a price.
Damn, this was a lot of fun. Almost everything about it works–the hipsters rolling with the weirdness until it gets too dark, the power dynamics of Hollywood, the tit for tat power struggle between the three major players, Boro’s confident charm and weird magic, and the way the storytelling slides effortlessly between Hollywood, magic, horror, and comedy. I also enjoyed the way none of the players are truly evil or innocent, they’re simply bound to a bad end with everybody else roadkill if they get in the way. The casting is terrific, notably Rosa Salazar (fast becoming one of my favorite actresses if not my favorite) as Lisa, Eric Lange as Lou, and Catherine Keener as Boro.
The only downer for me is the ending, which promised a stronger resolution in the climax as it’s presented as a limited series (no season 2). The more I think about it, the more it makes sense, but it breaks a bit too neatly and messily at the same time. No matter, though. BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR is a hell of a lot of fun.