Director: Craig William MacNeill
Screenplay: Nick Antosca, Don Mancini & Kris Straub
Starring: Paul Schneider, Fiona Shaw, Abigail Pniowsky
Duration: 259 min
BBFC Certification: 15
Anthology TV shows are currently all the rage, with Black Mirror, True Detective and American Horror Story pulling in huge ratings worldwide. The appeal of these shows is the self-contained stories that conclude at the end of each season (or episode in the case of Black Mirror). This can be extremely satisfying, after we’ve all been through the disappointment of dedicating years of our lives to following countless seasons of a TV show only to be thoroughly let down by the conclusion of the story – I’m looking at you Lost. The latest new kid on the block is SyFy’s Channel Zero, with the first season, Candle Cove, having been aired in 2016 it has now been released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK. Each of Channel Zero’s seasons are based on creepypastas, which are horror based stories or legends that are posted and shared across the internet. In the case of the original Candle Cove creepypasta, this took the form of episodes of a fictional but somewhat disturbing kids puppet show appearing on Youtube.
Mike Painter (Paul Schneider) is a successful child psychologist, who after suffering nightmares about his traumatic childhood, returns to his hometown of Iron Hill, Ohio. In the 1980s, the town was shocked by the murder of several kids, and the disappearance of Mike’s twin brother, Eddie. This all appears to be linked to a mysterious television show, Candle Cove, which soon disappeared off the airwaves. However, in the present day, the show has reappeared just as local children start to act strangely.
Candle Cove, owes a lot to Stephen King’s It, in its use of flashbacks to the main protagonists’ youth and then focussing on the adult version of themselves struggling to escape psychological traumas long buried. In the first scene of the series, Mike appears on a talk show to discuss his latest child psychiatry book. “Adulthood is just a mask,” he tells the host. “A sophisticated mask, for sure. But behind it, we’re still the kids we were.” As we grow older we forget how frightening it can be as a child, and how upsetting and realistic nightmares can be, but deep down we’re still living in fear. Unlike other current horror shows such as American Horror Story and Scream Queens, Candle Cove eschews the brash, in your face modern gore and jump scares, for a more old school feeling of suspense and dread. Don’t get me wrong, there is still gore and jumps, but this is a show that thrives on atmosphere, character development and some Lynchian weirdness. Limiting the series to just 6 episodes gives enough room for the mystery to develop at it’s own pace, but not outstay it’s welcome or rely on filler episodes, which has been the downfall of The Walking Dead and American Horror Story in recent years.
All the cast are excellent, especially Paul Schneider as Mike, whose fragile psyche begins to unravel as he uncovers more of his past and discovers he may of played a part in brother’s disappearance. Behind the camera, the talent is equally top notch with all episodes being written by Nick Antosca (Hannibal) and the creator of Child’s Play, Don Mancini, as well as direction by Craig William MacNeill (The Boy).
Channel Zero compels the audience with an intriguing, scary mystery to solve. Who is behind Candle Cove? Is a supernatural presence responsible or do the residents of Iron Hill know more than they’re letting on?
Channel Zero: Candle Cove is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Second Sight.