Channel Zero Seasons Ranked From Worst to Best - VRGyani News and Media

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

Channel Zero Seasons Ranked From Worst to Best

Editor's note: The following contains spoilers for all four seasons of Channel Zero.

The minds behind the critically acclaimed SYFY horror series Channel Zero are back with a new Netflix show this month. Brand New Cherry Flavor will premiere on the streaming service on Friday, August 13th, an appropriate date for the limited horror series to debut. Rosa Salazar, who led the 2019 action sci-fi Alita: Battle Angel, plays an aspiring actress in 90s Los Angeles. When a big time Hollywood producer betrays her, Salazar’s Lisa Nova plans her revenge through supernatural means and dark magic. Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion serve as showrunners for the Netflix series, though both have worked together in the past. In 2016, Antosca helped turn a series of Creepypastas — short stories published over the internet that often go viral — into a full fledged anthology series on the SYFY Channel. Zion helped write later episodes of the series.

Though Channel Zero has been off the air since 2018, the series has found a new home on the horror-dedicated streaming service Shudder. And any horror fan would be remiss if they skipped out on Channel Zero. Sure, Ryan Murphy and FX’s American Horror Story and Stories remain the popular horror anthology series, but Channel Zero takes a unique approach in its Creepypasta source material. Each season expands upon an existing Creepypasta: "Candle Cove" by Kris Straub, "The No-End House" by Brian Russell, "Butchers Block" by Kerry Hammond, and "The Dream Door" by Charlotte Bywater. And while AHS often supplies a sexy edge in its delivery of scares, Channel Zero inherits the creepy found in the original Creepypastas. The show finds its footing in uncomfortable puppet characters, uncanny creature designs that blend anthropomorphic forms with the grotesque, and truly disturbing imagery supplied by gore and psychedelic visuals. Though the show was canceled by SYFY after only four seasons, they left horror fans more than satisfied. So in an effort to highlight what makes each season great (and disturbing), below I’ve ranked all four.

4. Season 3: Butcher’s Block (2018)

Butcher’s Block is probably the season most likely to make you throw up. That’s because the main antagonists of the season are the Peaches, a family of cannibals whose eternal presence terrorizes a city’s neighborhood — the titular Butcher’s Block. When Alice (Olivia Luccardi) and Zoe (Holland Roden) move into the neighborhood, they encounter Joseph Peach (the late Rutger Hauer), the Peaches’ father figure and leader. He makes the girls an offer: in exchange for healing their inherited schizophrenia from their mother, Alice and Zoe must join the Peach family as cannibals in their own, ethereal dimension. While they are briefly convinced and take part in their flesh-eating dinners, Alice and Zoe ultimately choose to leave the Peaches and to destroy their hold over the town.

While familial relationships in Channel Zero have always been well-written and have kept the horror show grounded in its characters, Butcher’s Block falters in its execution of the theme of sisterhood. The first half of the season finds Alice trying to save her sister Zoe from joining the Peaches. After all, saving people is in her character — it’s Alice’s new role as a social worker that led her to the town and Butcher’s Block. But by the middle of the season, this sister dynamic is abruptly reversed. Alice is quickly turned on to the idea of ridding herself of any trace of mental illness, while Zoe then becomes resistant to eating human flesh when, earlier in the season, she was already seduced by Joseph Peach’s proposal. By the end of the season, it is Zoe who must now convince Alice of rejecting the Peaches and their cannibalism.

This isn't to say that characters shouldn’t change throughout a show. But the abrupt changes that Alice and Zoe go through aren’t really warranted, especially when their actions and choices are in total opposition to their characters established at the beginning of the season. This may also be why they aren’t even the most interesting duo of the show. In their attempts to kill and mutilate members of the Peach family, Louise Lispector (Krisha Fairchild) — a landlord who’s spent years investigating the Peaches — and Luke Vanczyk (Brandon Scott) — the son of a corrupt sheriff — form a dynamic duo with genuine chemistry and even comedic timing. It’s an unlikely pairing that actually is the perfect pairing. Perhaps Butcher’s Block could have been better executed if Louise and Luke had been the primary protagonists rather than the lackluster Woods sisters. Also, the true villain twist, that a demonic god with antlers has been behind the Peaches and their cannibalist antics all this time, comes too late. Still, the season is worth a watch, if only to see how far the show pushes the envelope on its depictions of cannibalism as fine dining.

3. Season 1: Candle Cove (2016)

Candle Cove had the enormous job of establishing what kind of show Channel Zero would be, and fortunately the premiere season delivered on the promise of a Creepypasta-based series that captured the uncomfortability when reading the original source material. It established the show's themes and tropes — adults forgetting their childhoods, disturbing creature designs, supernatural powers manifested by trauma, weird interdimensional mind worlds. The later seasons reutilized these tropes to varying degrees of success, but Candle Cove was the first to attempt a balance between them all.

When Mike Painter (Paul Schneider) returns to his hometown 30 years later, he begins to look into the disappearance of his twin brother when they were kids. He remembers a strange television show, “Candle Cove,” a puppet show they had watched as kids which he believes is linked to his brother's disappearance. It turns out the show is directly related to his brother’s disappearance. Mike’s twin brother Eddie had weird, psychic abilities as a kid, which he used to terrorize and kill his childhood bullies. It was Mike who killed Eddie so many years ago, and now Eddie — trapped in a psychic dimension of his own making, where he also manifests the show of “Candle Cove” — wants his revenge by attempting to take over Mike’s body to enter the real world.

Perhaps the original Creepypasta premise of a kids show about puppets that only a handful of people know about is more interesting than the story elements added into Candle Cove. Compared to the stories of the other seasons, this first one is just fine and perhaps too complicated for its own good. There are definitely emotional stakes between the twin brothers and their family, but Eddie’s whole superpower angle seems to undercut the already creepy concept of an unexplainable kids show that no one else remembers. The idea of powers is also better handled in the show’s fourth and final season, where the mechanics of it all is gradually explained and not caught up in other mysteries, like the disappearance and murder of Mike’s brother Eddie.

Though at number three, Candle Cove is still an overall, well-executed season of horror television. If Channel Zero had just this one season, it still would have been a win for horror fans. But there are some aspects that other seasons really excel at, such as No-End House’s father-daughter relationship and The Dream Door’s overall villain. However, there is one element that the first season has over the other three seasons — Candle Cove introduced us to the show's first and most disturbing-to-look-at monster, the truly terrifying Tooth Fairy whose entire outer layer is made up of teeth. No one would want a visit from that Tooth Fairy. That guy is just nightmare fuel.

2. Season 2: No-End House (2017)

The premise of No-End House is definitely alluring, especially to fans of haunted houses, escape rooms, or even installation art galleries. The titular No-End House is a house that seems to disappear and reappear in random places once a year, its location revealed through social media and word of mouth. Its six rooms provide guests an interactive experience — often through ‘haunted house’ type scares, like a silent man in a suit and a wooden mask who comes far too close for comfort, but often through psychological torture, such as the zombie version of your deceased father. But the No-End House is also a portal into a separate, fantasy world where, if one stays too long, loses their memories and becomes a hollow version of themselves with no hope for escape.

If at the heart of a good Channel Zero is its execution of familial themes, then No-End House is a contender for one of the top spots. The relationship between Margot Sleator (Amy Forsyth) and her deceased father-turned-zombie John Sleator (veteran actor John Caroll Lynch) is at the forefront of this season. The image of her father’s suicide, as Margot found him dead on a couch while TV, is what the No-End House uses to terrorize Margot, and it’s her memories with her father that the No-End House uses to make her stay. While the scares in this season fall short compared to the other seasons that deliver on creepy and gory imagery, No-End House makes up for it in its emotionally moving montages between father and daughter. And while Margot’s father is the walking dead at times, chasing Margot and her friends through a cornfield maze, he is ultimately still a father who very much cares for his daughter, and Lynch’s portrayal of both is heartbreaking to say the least.

But the revelation of the final big bad of No-End House isn’t as clever nor interesting as the show seems to think. As it turns out, Seth (Jeff Ward) has been living in the fantasy world of No-End House, luring girls like Margot into it in order to feel a sense of love and companionship, things he had missed in his growing up as a foster kid. It’s a fine juxtaposition to the kind of love Margot had with her father growing up, but the conflict between Seth and Margot isn’t as compelling as Margot’s inner conflict to let go, grieve, and forgive her father. In order to escape the No-End House, Margot never needed to defeat Seth — she merely needed to come to terms with her father’s suicide. Thematically, No-End House delivers on its emotional stakes between father and daughter. However, it ultimately runs into the villain twist problem, such as in Butcher’s Block reveal of the demon god. The better mad villain in search of love is actually part of the best and final season.

1. Season 4: The Dream Door (2018)

Pretzel Jack. Is there anything more to say? In all seriousness, The Dream Door was the perfect conclusion to such a great horror series. It took the best components of the previous seasons — a strange reappearing door, creatures and monsters that make for great slashers, a villain twist in the second half of the season — and executed them better than the rest. And still, the theme of family is all the more front and center and taken to new, perverse outcomes.

There’s something of The Shining in The Dream Door in that the main protagonist is gifted with conjuring up monsters and ghouls that terrorize the people around her. Jillian Hodgson (Maria Sten) has the power to summon anything she puts her mind into by making doors appear wherever her mind manifests it. As a child, she brought to life a contortionist clown named Pretzel Jack who became her best friend while dealing with the trauma of her father’s infidelity. As an adult, she unknowingly brings back Pretzel Jack when she suspects her husband Tom (Brandon Scott) is also having an affair with another woman. Pretzel Jack attempts to kill Tom and the woman he had seen years ago, and even manages to kill others in his path.

While Sten and Scott provide excellent performances as a couple struggling to love and be truthful with each other (and if you were looking for AHS’s sex appeal, this couple provides just that), Pretzel Jack is truly the star of the show. As clowns go, Jack is made all the more creepy with his ability to bend, walk, move, and kill in all sorts of shapes and angles. And yet, when Pretzel Jack goes from killing machine to an ally, we get to see exactly why Jillian had made him her childhood best friend. When Jack tries to be cute, he absolutely is, especially when all he ever wanted was a hug from his best friend.

But Jillian isn’t the only one with the power to produce anything their mind desires. Ian (Steven Robertson) seems like a friendly neighbor who merely wants to help Jillian with her strange superpower. But it turns out that Ian is Jillian’s half brother who shares the same gift. His childhood best friend was Tall Boy, a disfigured tall creature, which he orders to kill his and Jillian’s father (Gregg Henry). Ian’s ultimate goal is not only to train Jillian to master her abilities, but he wants to be with her romantically. Yes, Channel Zero has always been about family, but taking this season in a weird, incestuous route actually makes for a better compelling villain than, for example, No-End House’s Seth. Ian not only matches Jillian in terms of powers and abilities, but the conflict between them is inherent in their family relationship. Unlike the attempt to make Seth sympathetic with his backstory, Ian is just full on insane. Another element that makes Ian such a great villain is in the way he makes eating fast food all the more repulsive — he stuffs his face with one cheeseburger after the other, shaking and trembling as he recharges his powers.

For a show that only had four seasons, it’s great to see such a unique horror anthology end on a high note. Though it may have been cut short, there’s something special about its finite run on SYFY. Whereas other shows might have mined each season’s formula and tropes to death, Channel Zero was not only able to expand upon existing Creepypastas but was also able to build out a unique vision and style of its own that only got better season after season. Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion have given horror fans a lot to chew on and have demonstrated great potential for their next new show. While all seasons of Channel Zero are available on Shudder, Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion’s new limited series Brand New Cherry Flavor premieres on Netflix on Friday, August 13th.



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