Channel Zero (2016)
I have been a horror fan all my life, stretching back into my earliest childhood memories of being scared, and I think this show is made for other people who have the same “bug.”
Everything in this show is created by artists and from a surreal, artistic perspective. Nothing follows Hollywood norms. From the stilted dialogue — full of awkward pauses, but somehow enhanced as a result — to the regularly bizarre imagery, to the personality of the hero (antihero?), to the plot itself, which hardly leads to a fairytale ending, nothing in this show takes the easy way out, and all of it is designed to be appreciated by people who love this kind of creepy stuff.
For lack of a better analogy, I think this show does to horror TV what “Aeon Flux” on MTV did to animated sci-fi series, what “True Detective” (Season 1) did to noir, or what “Twin Peaks” did to mysteries with a coming-of-age backdrop. In other words, it doesn’t just discard the tropes of the genre, it pulls out all the stops at once, and is designed to explore what makes the horror genre truly unique unto itself.
In other words, finally we have a horror show created by people who not only don’t feel that a bizarre, eerie sequence needs an explanation, but actually understand that it doesn’t really want one. The fact that this is inspired by real online creepy pasta makes the whole project that much more appreciable. Can’t wait for season two.
Based on the short story/creepypasta ‘Candle Cove’, Channel Zero S1 is a great horror series. Six 50 minute episodes that provide a creepy, unsettling and well-written horror story with well-developed characters is quite a new experience.
The show follows Mike Painter, a child psychologist who returns home as a mysterious children’s television show called Candle Cove begins airing after over thirty years of absence, a show which, for some mysterious reason, airs at the same time of a mysterious series of deaths.
The show, being six hours long, expands on the ideas set forth in the original short story, and in some sense changes the significance of the Candle Cove story. There is a lot that needed to be changed in order for the story to fit in the television format, but the changes they made not only work but keep to the vision of what creepypastas are all about.
In my mind, while there certainly are some badly written creepypastas out there, what makes the format so unique is the sort of collectivist nature of the story development. For those who don’t know, the term creepypasta is from the term copypasta, which of course is slang for copy and paste.
This reflects the intentional viral nature of the creepypasta format. These stories are designed to be shared and remixed, rather than locked down via copyright. Just think of Slenderman, arguably the most famous creepypasta icon, who started as a series of images on an image board, and grew into a cultural icon with video games, stories, YouTube series, and even a documentary about him.
That’s why, in my opinion, Channel Zero is so great and important. By adapting Candle Cove, and later NoEnd House, the show is sort of showing a broader audience that yes, despite its silly name, creepypastas are very important parts of the internet and broader culture. I’m looking forward to where the creators take the show next.