Channel Zero: Candle Cove is a six-episode, self-contained, horror anthology TV series, created by Nick Antosca, and based on the short by Kris Straub. It's directed by Craig Macneill, and stars Paul Schneider, Fiona Shaw, Luisa D' Oliveira, Natalie Brown, Shaun Benson, and Luca Villacis.
Channel Zero is based on a popular "creepypasta." For those of you not in the know, creepypastas are horror-related, user-generated internet memes. Creepypasta is a blend of words whose sounds and meanings are combined to form a new word, in this case from "creepy" and from a slang term for "copy and paste." Now that we have that cleared up, we can get back to the review.
Channel Zero centres on Mike Painter and his return to his hometown after spending almost two decades being haunted by a strange children's television show, the disappearance of his brother, and the brutal deaths of other children in his home town. Now, the show is back, and so is the nightmare.
My review/thoughts are going to cover the four episodes that have aired so far. What about the final two episodes? Well, I'll be back to give my final thoughts once the last two episodes air, so don't worry your pretty little heads over it.
So, my baleful brigands, in Channel Zero, I've discovered a honey pot of horrorific yum-yums.
Honestly, though, I didn't expect to. You see, after watching episode one of Channel Zero, I wrote it off as another bit of "torture porn" that wasn't trying hard enough to make sense. I was about to delete the episodes from my DVR, when a fellow crypt dweller asked me if I had seen the series yet. I explained to him my thoughts on the first episode, and finished with; "...and I am not interested."
His response to me was; "No, you really need to watch the other episodes to get it. Trust me, you'll like it. It's really wrong, but in a way you'll like."
Truth be told, if this were coming from anyone else, I'd have just written off the show. However, my friend is incredibly picky about what he watches. So much so, it makes me crazy. And he's a very talented writer, so he knows what's good. So if he says give it another go, well, I'm going to give it another go.
This set me on a course to binge watch all of the episodes that are currently available, and this is what I have to report.
What in the name of all the gods did I just watch?
"What the Hell? I feel nauseated because of how anxiety inducing that was," is what I said when all was said and done.
My friend said it best when he said that Paul Schneider's portrayal of Mike made him uneasy. Thanks to Schneider's genuine performance, the anxiety Mike feels is not only palpable, but transmitted to the viewer. (Anxiety. That's a word, by the way, you'll probably hear a lot in reference to Channel Zero.) I would also add that the believable performances, coupled with excellent chemistry, from the rest of the cast make Channel Zero a real winner in my book.
The writing by Nick Antosca, Don Mancini, and Harley Peyton, was spot on, as was the directing by Craig Macneill. Thanks to deft writing, pacing, scoring, and direction, the series is a slow burner with a high creep factor. It's not jump scares that get you in Channel Zero; it's the agonizing buildup of... wrongness.
What I want to know is: who found the location where Channel Zero was filmed? I'm not sure if it was just the stress-inducing creepiness of the episodes, but the town and its outlying area just seems off -- vaguely sinister, with an underpinning of a secret darkness infecting the place. It makes me uncomfortable. Hell, the whole series makes me uncomfortable.
Oh, and did I mention? To top off all that eeriness, they threw in some creepy puppets and one totally nightmare-worthy creature (or something). Why? Because: hey, why not?
Unlike many TV series and films that try to pull off this kind of atmosphere, Channel Zero strikes a perfect balance between (unnerving but not gory) violence, complex story and characters, and supernatural goings-on. It moves things forward without one of these elements ever significantly overshadowing another. That's a hard trick to pull off.
By the time I turned off the last episode, I was thinking: "This is all just so disturbingly wrong."
The entire encounter left me bothered, anxious, creeped out, uncomfortable, stressed, or any other synonym for these words you can think of, and with my fists clenched in ominous anticipation. Put simply, Channel Zero managed to make me feel troubled. So much so, I slept very restlessly that night -- something else that's not easily accomplished. That, my gruesome ghouls, is a brilliant sign that the creators of Channel Zero not only knew what they wanted to do, but had the skill to turn their vision into a reality.
The bottom line here is this: Channel Zero will require you to pay attention and think. Everything is not spoon-fed. It's not all jump scares, gore, and torture porn. However, if you're looking for an eerie, menacing, anxiety-inducing television experience, watch SyFy's Channel Zero: Candle Cove.
Here is a bit of advice though: Watch it with the lights on, and well before you go to bed. Oh, and if puppets freak you out, be prepared for nightmares.