On Tuesday (Nov. 15), Syfy’s creepypasta-inspired new anthology series, “Channel Zero,” put its freshman installment, “Candle Cove,” to bed. And with just six episodes, the horror series has proven an anthology program such as this can run half the length of heavy hitters like “American Horror Story” and still deliver the intended goods.
The final episode, titled “Welcome Home,” unveiled the supernatural reason behind the decades of killings in Iron Hill. Taking a direction that is hard to conceptualize in any rational terms, the series clinched the idea that the bullying Eddie (Luca Villacis) experienced as a child opened up his heart to an imaginary spot where pirate puppets and skin-takers exist.
Mrs. Booth was not the Pied Piper of these killer children, just the surrogate mother the dead boy needed to return to the land of the living: For him to live again, and not in the form of the Tooth-Child, innocent people needed to die.
It’s been a while since a genre show like this — one firmly accepting of a far-fetched, otherworldly outcome — has graced the small-screen. Instead of grounding itself in fully realistic terms, helping us rationalize the events as they unfold, “Candle Cove” goes to one unfortunate child’s dark place, and stays there. And whether you think this was weird or welcome, Syfy has succeeded at bringing the horror anthology series back to a familiar place.
The horror anthology is nothing new on television, and though Ryan Murphy has thrown the formula on its head — exploring a separate story in every full season of “American Horror Story” — the idea can still work within the monster-of-the-week origins of “The Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits.” These examples are relevant here as, while the TV landscape continues to evolve, it’s been shown that audiences are still seeking out a good scare.
With Peak TV still a thing, sometimes it’s easier to invest one’s attention in stories that play out in smaller doses. No offense to Ryan Murphy, but “Candle Cove” did just that. And in certain scenarios, a show’s story isn’t the most important aspect of a genre show’s power. “Candle Cove” is a shining example.
Yes, the story behind the popular creepypasta was thin already — creepypasta, birthed on Internet chat forums, has a power much more like poetry than prose. To build out the concepts Kris Straub created in 2009, Nick Antosca’s series and story would have to rely heavily on actors to bring their characters to life. And, while the cast all performed well enough, without a doubt, the show’s star was the look and feel director Craig William Macneill brought to each episode.
Tone: It’s an important element in any horror story, whether it’s presented on the big-screen or small, and there are times when that component wins out above all else. In 2014, “It Follows” became an indie phenomenon, as people from all walks of life raved about how frightening the film was. But when you break things down, it turned out the visuals featured throughout the movie accounted for that overall sense of dread. It wasn’t story that helped the movie succeed, as it was the tone. And if you need a small-screen example of where cinematography may outshine everything else featured in a TV series, just revisit “Twin Peaks” and you’ll see what we mean. No offense, Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan)… We’ll always love you.
It is probably no surprise that “Candle Cove” has been compared to works by Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch and Stephen King. Their influences can be felt throughout the season’s six-episode run. It’s a comparison EP Nick Antosca fully embraces.
And while “Channel Zero” will completely shift gears in Season 2 — tackling another popular creepypasta, “The No-End House” — it’s worth pointing out that, in order for the series to fully succeed moving, it needs a stronger story in its sophomore outing. Maybe that’s exactly why Antosca chose it. It’s a bigger story in scope and feel — and with John Carroll Lynch tapped to star in the next installment, something tells us we’ll be getting a completely different “Channel Zero.” If you ask us, it’s this variety that will keep the show interesting, different and, yes, scary as hell.
“Channel Zero: The No-End House” is expected to premiere in the fall of 2017 on Syfy.