With blueprints, toenails, a terrifying short film and yes, a whole fleet of fake kittens, the Netflix series paints a palette of horrors unlike any other on television.
[Editor's Note: The following article containsSpoilerfor "new cherry flavor', including the ending.]
There are times when the "New Cherry Flavor" seems to exist in a universe of its own. EITHERNetflixThe series, based on Todd Grimson's book of the same name, is set in early '90s Los Angeles, a place steeped in equal measure of possibility and dread.
Lisa Nova (Rosa Salazar) arrives in this thick rainbow soup of a town with only one valuable item in tow: a short film called "Lucy's Eye" that will paralyze anyone who sees it. Director Matt Sobel, who worked behind the camera for the fourth and fifth episodes of the series, directed the movie within the movie. It's an ideal example of how "Brand New Cherry Flavor" takes a foggy, fictionalized version of Los Angeles filled with inexplicable oddities and delivers something tangible.
"He's got that raw energy, right? It wasn't meant to be a perfect masterpiece," said the series' co-creator and co-showrunner.Nick Antoska. "It's supposed to show that she has tremendous potential that everyone who sees her will be like, 'Wow, what else does she have to say? Where is this strange energy coming from?'”
It's an energy that keeps the show going, whether or not it focuses directly on the film industry. Between Antosca and her fellow co-showrunnerlenore sion, the series writing team and the series directing team, Brand New Cherry Flavor is an amalgamation of many different perspectives on Los Angeles and the entire creative process. To complete the vision for the city, one had to draw on a series of practical executions of key scenes and ideas to keep all the otherworldly craziness grounded.
No conversation about bringing some of the show's weird twists to life would be complete without addressing some of its rising stars: the group of mystical kittens that Lisa offers the enigmatic Boro (Catherine Keener) as payment. From Salazar to the director of the opening episode,Arkasha StevensonIt took dedicated teamwork for the show's visual effects team, led by supervisor Danny Yoon, to make these little jelly-covered KY cats look real.
"New Cherry Flavor"
"It was totally practical. Rosa put these kitties in her mouth and basically pretended to vomit them up," Zion said. When we saw Rosa do it without him, it was so compelling that we thought, "We don't need him to make these to have extra help.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of email threads about kittens and animatronic dolls. We have more photos of weird alien kittens in our email inboxes than probably any other living person," joked Antosca.
"My favorite moment is when Rosa throws up that kitten. I will hold that memory very dear to my heart for a long time," Stevenson said. "Nick and Lenore came up with the idea that creativity is alive and has a physical form, so it was very important that this cat that came out wasn't CG was that she actually looked like something real was coming out of her throat in that room. There was real gag reflexes, real drooling and phlegm involved. Me, the cinematographer and the SFX artist all squeezed together on the receiving end of that puke, splattered with everything. I was shaking with joy. And I looked at the SFX artist and I was like, 'This is amazing. And he said in the most rocking voice ever, 'Fuck you!' Feeling the saliva splattering on her face and feeling that lump being expelled from Rosa's esophagus was a very funny moment, I really wanted that emotion to be transferred to the camera."
While the first kitten helps put the finishing touches to the opening episode (and establishes one of the series' most distinctive traits), a memorable bookend from the other side of the series is the ruthless decapitation of the fictional Globe-winning megastar. . Roy Hardaway (Jeff Ward).
"Nick planned it that way before," Zion said. "I actually saved in my photos on my phone a drawing he made of a stick figure being decapitated. It's one of my favorite things to watch."
"That was the day we all had to wear ponchos because there was a lot of blood everywhere," Antosca said. "Todd Grimson tells us that while writing the novel, he looked at hundreds of '80s horror movies and tried to use many of the more gruesome and cinematic death scenes from the novel. This aesthetic also permeated the show. A hands-on horror setting, gonzo but fun.
One of the ever-present mystical powers on Brand New Cherry Flavor is the show's magical vegetation. Antosca praised production designer Troy Hansen's efforts to ensure real greenery was constantly available, particularly for the many greenhouse scenes. From the vines that are quickly taking over Lisa's apartment building to the spooky botanical gardens that Boro maintains in his personal space, there's something about these plants that looks different on screen than any ordinary artificial office plant.
"New Cherry Flavor"
“There's not a lot of nature in Los Angeles. The palm trees aren't native and there's not much vegetation depending on where you live. But as you walk through the city, you see the earth trying to break the cement. You'll see plants trying to make their way through the sidewalks," Stevenson said. "If you imagine Boro as this magical mother figure, it's clear that nature would thrive around her. It was therefore very important to bring in real plants. That's what we did. For most pilots I didn't need much spray or mist, but the greenhouse was inherently very wet and humid. It has to look like the center of life, something almost prehistoric in it because boron is prehistoric. It must look wild like a jungle when Rosa goes in there.
Speaking of Boro, Stevenson also spoke about how Keener's on-screen presence was almost an effect in itself. For one who embodies millennia of experience in a cosmic tug of war, every detail of his appearance has been instrumental in building this mysticism. A special distinctive touch came from Keener himself.
“I love acrylic nails and I usually have long acrylic nails. We just finished and Catherine said, 'I want you to get up.' And I thought that was the most brilliant thing," Stevenson said. “The greenhouse day was a very busy day, a very emotional day. But we just had to take this photo of Catherine's foot with those long acrylic nails. Between takes, I'll always remember how this dirt picked up and rubbed into Catherine's foot. Catherine can even act through her toenails. She's a movie star.
With so much potential for further exploration, “Brand New Cherry Flavor” ends on a note that is somewhat ambiguous and self-contained. This feeling is intentional. While there's still plenty of Grimson romance to uncover, there's also a sense of finality as Lisa disappears into the vast white void behind the international terminal at LAX.
"The book is so long and contains so much that we only adjusted the first 100 pages, what we wanted to do was to be spiritually faithful to the book and the character. So we designed it so that we could tell the thematic story we wanted to tell in one season. That's not to say we would never consider doing chapter two of the story. The intent was to end up with an ending that feels like the world is going on, but still tells the story of Lisa's journey that we wanted to tell."
Brand New Cherry Flavor is available to stream on Netflix.
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