'Brand New Cherry Flavor' Is a Creepy '90s Occult-Horror Throwback

You'll never look at kittens the same way again after watching this freaky limited series.

rosa salazar in brand new cherry flavor
Rosa Salazar in Netflix's 'Brand New Cherry Flavor.' | Netflix
Rosa Salazar in Netflix's 'Brand New Cherry Flavor.' | Netflix

It's tough to make it in show business, as show business as a medium is obsessed with telling all of us. Maybe you're an aspiring director with a killer short film you'd like to turn into a feature, so you move to Los Angeles and befriend a high-powered producer, only for this producer to turn on you and steal your life's work. After which you find a witch living in an abandoned mansion and ask her to help you to put a curse on this guy and ruin his entire life. Maybe that last bit isn't so relatable, but it is the start of Netflix's new horror-thriller neo-noir limited series Brand New Cherry Flavor. The show, based on Todd Grimson's 1996 novel and produced by Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion of the legitimately terrifying Channel Zero, leans hard into its 1990s era for a delightfully pastiche-y horror tale full of some of the weirdest shit you will ever see in your life.

Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar) is new in town, rolling up to the City of Angels with ambition and a dark, disturbing short film she wants to turn into a feature. She meets Lou Burke (Eric Lange), who sweet talks her into signing over the rights to the short, with a promise that she'll be the one to direct when it goes into production. But, like so many newcomers to the scene, she's swindled out of her artistic property by the vindictive producer, and she turns to Boro (Catherine Keener), a shaggy-haired sorceress who lives in a jungle of potted plants, for help. Boro can put a curse on Lou and wreck his life, sure, but it's going to cost Lisa dearly—specifically, it's going to cost her a number of white-furred newborn kittens that Lisa vomits up once a day.

The show is Lynchian down to the font in the title credits (Lost Highway's yellow sans serif italics), a bold but sensical choice considering its retro setting. Some might find its overt nods to the director annoying, but others may feel it scratches an itch—especially when one of David Lynch's mainstays shows up in a guest spot in the final episodes. Salazar is an absolute star, gazing balefully at her rivals one second and batting her giant sanpaku eyes at a crush the next (leading to a sex scene near the middle of the season that is downright Cronenbergian). Everyone dresses in leather coats and tiny cardigans, miniskirts and chunky combat boots; one character's face is completely obscured by gauze bandages as she recovers from plastic surgery.

There's a sense of artifice to Los Angeles that gives way to the eldritch and macabre, once you scrape away the thin layer of sunny temperate weather and juice bars and influencers flaunting their expensive activewear. Like the grungy horror and neo-noir of the '80s and '90s, Brand New Cherry Flavor luxuriates in the grime, one regurgitated kitten at a time.

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.