The opening to Amazon’s new horror series “Brand New Cherry Flavor” warns viewers that it contains “violence, sex, nudity, substances, language, gore, smoking and animal harm.” In other words, to the right kind of person, it sounds like a buttload of fun. What follows is a lurid, hallucinogenic tale of movie stars, sex, revenge, hit men, zombies, voodoo and kittens. So many kittens.
Set in Hollywood during “The Early ’90s” (ah, nostalgia), “Brand New Cherry Flavor” is based on Todd Grimason’s 1996 occult novel of the same name. Our protagonist is one Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar from Alita: Battle Angel). Recently graduated from film school and with an edgy student film in hand, Lisa aims to take Hollywood by storm. Her film quickly catches the attention of once-famous, now-desperate producer Lou Burke (Eric Lange, a long way from from NIckelodeon’s “Victorious”). Burke sees something in Rosa, whom he describes as a “young, female Cronenberg.” On a whim, he options her short film for a big-budget remake. Rosa, sticking to her artistic guns, insists on writing and directing. Amazingly, Burke agrees. Of course anyone even remotely familiar with the film industry will not be surprised to find that our man Lou soon makes a pass at Rosa and follows up by stealing her film out from under her.
Rosa’s no wide-eyed innocent, though. She wants Burke to pay for what he’s done. Her quest for revenge shifts into overdrive when she meets witchy weirdo Boro (Catherine Keener from Being John Malkovich). Boro offers to “curse” Burke. Curse him but good. This involves various strange rituals and disgusting potions, resulting in plenty of blood and slime. And since someone went to the bother of name-dropping David Cronenberg, we get a squidgy dose of body horror to boot.
“Brand New Cherry Flavor” isn’t the junk food its title might imply. Nor is it something particularly transgressive. Nah, its more along the lines of self-conscious ’90s horror staples like Scream amped up a few notches on the Gross-o-Meter. The eight episode miniseries keeps up a glossy look as well, all glittering jewel tones and hazy Hollywood dreams. And its trippy approach to magic is certainly … unique, involving tattoos, tadpole smoothies and copious cat puking—which is not to say the show features a cat that pukes a lot. Instead, it has people puking up kittens. So many kittens.
The cast boasts some standouts. Salazar is a rising star and rightfully so, rolling with the show’s neck-snapping left turns into increasingly gleeful gruesomeness. Keener is always welcome, offering some nutty-fun character acting on par with Frances Conroy (“Six Feet Under,” “American Horror Story”). Lange is just the right amount of sleazy and sincere. At the end of the day, his Lou Burke is just another run-of-the-mill Hollywood jerk. As Lisa’s revenge kick gets weirder and ickier, sucking more and more innocent people into the “curse,” viewers will wonder (rightfully) if maybe this is all going a mite too far.
“Brand New Cherry Flavor” isn’t exactly enriching or enlightening. But it is an entertainingly over-the-top look at supernaturally fueled revenge. … And if you like slimy kittens, all the better.
Season 1 of “Brand New Cherry Flavor” is available now on Netflix.