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“CHANNEL ZERO: CANDLE COVE” (TV Review)

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With the amount of horror shows currently on television, it’s fun to see what each scare series uses as their trademark of choice. Whether it’s the “anything can happen” attitude of THE WALKING DEAD, the elegant art house melodrama of HANNIBAL, or the splattery horror comedy of ASH VS. EVIL DEAD, no two genre programs bring quite the same ingredients to the table. However, in the case of Syfy’s new Creepypasta-influenced series, CHANNEL ZERO, not only does the show bring something not often explored on television, but one that rarely gets the big screen treatment: pure, unadulterated nightmare logic.

Best described as a mix between PHANTASM and the Winkie’s scene from MULHOLLAND DRIVE, CHANNEL ZERO’s first season revolves around Kris Straub’s now-infamous tale CANDLE COVE, which follows a mysterious television program that’s linked to a string of brutal child abductions. In this adaptation, the story surrounds Mike Painter, a child psychologist who is drawn back to his hometown, where his twin brother had disappeared years beforehand. Painter’s trauma brings with him memories of a bizarre and hypnotic children’s television program, filled with frightening puppets and foreboding instructions. But when children from the town begin to go missing once more, Mike finds himself at the center of the mystery, with dark secrets and unexplained happenings all linked to the show, entitled “Candle Cove.”

With the likes of Nick Antosca (HANNIBAL), Don Mancini (CHILD’S PLAY), and Craig William Macneill (THE BOY [2015]) behind CANDLE COVE, there should be no surprise in CHANNEL ZERO’s intense, patient, and brooding approach to adapting creepypasta for a serialized narrative. However, how CHANNEL ZERO does surprise its audience is by utilizing the untrustworthy narrator, which allows the show to be flexible with its use of reality in order to provide it’s most macabre moments. And make no mistake: when CHANNEL ZERO wants to scare you, it certainly will, subverting every conventional horror trope to deliver something that feels absolutely paralyzing in nature; from the opening sequence on, the show never lets you rid yourself of unease, which makes the more overtly horror moments effective.

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Although there’s much more credit that can be given to the visual department of CHANNEL ZERO, the story itself also proves to be equally gripping and unsettling. The manner in which CHANNEL ZERO dispenses backstory, information, and alternate perspectives is rather brilliant, offering flashes that are just as likely to be nightmare fuel as they are to be imperative to the story. Furthermore, the show is incredibly unpredictable, giving the characters of the series a chance to defy the generalized archetypes of the genre, especially when it comes to the lead character and his emotionally damaged mother.

Speaking of the characters, CHANNEL ZERO is rather inspired in the casting department, with Paul Schneider offering a phenomenal, multi-faceted lead performance that mixes guilt, righteousness, humility and fear. Meanwhile, Fiona Shaw is a fantastic flip-side to Schneider’s wide-eyed approach, offering a grounded and slightly ashamed take on the “determined mother” archetype seen so often in the genre. And the rest of the cast is quite strong and adept as well, with Natalie Brown, Shaun Benson, and Luisa D’Oliveira each adding to the human element of CHANNEL ZERO as well.

Overall, CHANNEL ZERO is easily the television surprise of the fall, filled to the brim with unnerving, Creepypasta-inspired nightmare storytelling. It uses tension and suspense while also offering a compensatory delivery of ghoulish goods, and does so while telling a legitimately gripping tale of terror. But be warned: should you tune into CHANNEL ZERO: CANDLE COVE, chances are you may be sleeping with the TV on tonight…

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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