The Golden Age of TV has provided us with plenty but since Ryan Murphy ryan murphied his anthology horror series “American Horror Story” there haven’t been that many actually creepy horror series out there that didn’t deal with vampires, cute brothers or other sexy creature features.
Enter “Channel Zero”. The SyFy-series tackles a creepypasta-myth each season and wraps it around an actual story. Creepypastas, for the uninitiated are basically urban myths but digitally distributed and shared and therefore quite postmodern in their core. No creepy hitchhikers and “but she was dead all along”-stories but horrifying children’s tv shows that people remember but that never existed and wallowing demon-figures hiding in tumblr posts.
With the first season, “Channel Zero” chose the Candle Cove-myth, the aforementioned kid’s puppet show that somehow quite a few people could remember but that never existed in the first place.
Now, with the second season just started, we get to see and experience the horrors of the No End House, a sort of modern take on the ghost house that psychologically drags out all of your fears in six rooms, each room more traumatizing than the other.
Now, for fans of sexy vampires, funny bottle episodes and/or kick-ass heroines, the show is probably not the right fit. But it is, at least for me, the creepiest horror show I’ve seen since I got sucked into “Carnivale” 10 or so years ago.
So let me name all the reasons why I love this show a LOT!
From the get go, the series feels “off” but in a good way. There’s not a minute that hasn’t some underlying unease about it which in a way reminds me of “It Follows” which equally manages to keep the audience on its tows by providing horror not only on the screen but also in the back of the mind of the viewer. Candle Cove is uncanny from beginning to end and it achieves that by never letting the viewer get ahead with the story or showing too much.
The make-up /special effects
I love the AHS make up. The clown make-up for Twisty the Clown in “Freak Show” and “Cult” is genuinely terrifying which is a feat when everyone and their grandmother have tried on the creepy clown mask for Halloween. But “Channel Zero” works because it’s not so much detailed and outright scary but crude. The puppets for Candle Cove are horrifying but also quite realistic if you’ve ever seen the horrors of Christian local tv puppets.
The make-up choices are so ingenious because they are like blurs of actual creature concepts which works in “Channel Zero’s” favor. I don’t want to spoil too much but in their second season in episode One there’s a make-up that just as well could have been the failed attempt at papermachè class at the local library but it is terrifying because of that. The crudeness again adds to the unease, to the underlying grotesquery because it is unexpected and you will somehow remember it from weird movies like “Puppet Master” or the mentioned Christian kid’s TV.
The story is tight
One of the main criticisms basically everyone has for AHS is the fact that the storytelling usually starts promising and then slowly or within an episode falls into pieces. This is a Ryan Murphy problem that fans of his show acknowledge (and I would say, that I am, begrudgingly, a fan). “Channel Zero” has a different approach. The whole story is mapped out, no detail works against it and all characters make sense within their universe and their storyline.
The camera work
“It Follows” is one of my favourite horror movies in the last years because it is soooo slow. If you take your time with each scene, let the camera pan along a street until it finds the protagonist (or antagonist) or just casually wanders over the scenery, you create atmosphere but also tension. Instead of a thousand jump scares, “Channel Zero” works with the breath the audience holds and then instead of shaking them and shouting “gotcha!”, it slowly crawls under the skin.
Now, AHS has amazing actors and actresses, so I won’t try to mess with the cast (because honestly, I love Ryan Murphy for introducing me to Sarah Paulson and rejuvenating Jessica Lange’s career because I needed her). But a few other horror themed shows tend to have a cast that is good but maybe not award-good. But “Channel Zero” has not one single lackluster performance and it also makes use of insanely awesome character actors like Fiona Shaw (she is so good!) and Paul Schneider for once not being the indie movie cutie but a truly disturbed man.
Now, I have so far only seen episode One of the second series No End House but I am already so excited and giddy. To quote my boyfriend as proof how good this show is:
“Jules, you don’t look very relaxed right now, are you ok?”
I am not and it’s amazing!