Channel Zero: Season One - Candle Cove [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Second Sight
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (16th October 2017).
The Show

The return of New York child psychologist Mike Painter (Parks and Recreations's Paul Schneider) to his hometown of Iron Hill, Ohio twenty-eight years after "The Iron Hill" murders of five local children, the last of which was his twin brother Eddie (Knuckleball's Luca Villacis). While four bodies were found hanging from a tree with their teeth missing, Eddie's body was never found. No sooner does he reconnect with old friends Sheriff Gary Yolen (ARQ's Shaun Benson), his wife and Mike's childhood crush Jessica (The Strain's Natalie Brown), deputy Tim Hazel (The Pinkertons' David Lawrence Brown), Daphne Bell (Gwendolyn Collins), and former English teacher Mrs. Booth (Cult of Chucky's Marina Stephenson Kerr), all of whom lost a relative or friend to the killer, than Gary's and Jessica's daughter Katie (Katia Raquel Leon) vanishes from her bed the night after Mike mentions to her parents that the girl claimed to have been watching "Candle Cove" on the television. A children's puppet show that aired a handful of episodes on dead channels in the spring of 1988 that stopped as soon as the murders did, its imagery of Pirate Percy menaced by Jawbone the Skintaker has haunted all of the friends in the dark recesses of their nightmares, particularly Mike. Tim has long suspected that Mike and his mother Marla (The Hippopotamus' Fiona Shaw) knew more than they would admit about the murders, and he is even more suspicious that Mike may have told Katie about the show. Gary and Jessica also become suspicious of Mike when he is able to find Katie (minus a pair of teeth), especially when she subsequently attacks her brother Dane (Liam Marchant) with a hook. With Katie in the hospital under guard until the DA can determine what to charge her with, a desperate Jessica turns to Mike to use his expertise. Mike becomes even more insistent that "Candle Cove" has something to do with the murders then and Katie's behavior now after seeing artwork in the children's hospital wing that mirrors the imagery of the television show. Initially reluctant to rip open old wounds, Marla vows to help her son stop whatever happened from happening again. As Mike tries to convince Jessica and Gary that something unnatural is influencing their daughter, Marla looks into the existence of the television show which she still doubts since she tells Mike that she only saw static at the times when he and Eddie were transfixed to the television. Noticing that some of the landmarks in the drawings resemble ones in Iron Hill, the pair are drawn to the old, abandoned steel works where they discover the desiccated corpse of Eddie as the centerpiece of a strange shrine. When Gary, Tim, and Daphne abduct Mike to find out what he knows and to prove that he was the killer of Tim's brother Gene (Mackenzie Wojcik) who bullied Eddie and broke his fingers Daphne's cousin, Mrs. Booth's slow son Jacob (Connor Peterson), and his own brother Eddie especially after learning that Mike had just been released from a psychiatric facility after a psychotic break their attempt to take the law into their own hands lands Gary in jail while Tim and Daphne vanish into the woods. As acting sheriff Amy Welch (The 100's Luisa D'Oliveira) remains suspicious of Mike and skeptical of the influence of the television show "Candle Cove" until she too notices the increasingly odd and violent behavior of a trio of local children while other Iron Hill parents also notice their own children starting to behave strangely. When Mike's own daughter Lily (Arrival's Abigail Pniowsky) inexplicably turns up in town four-hundrd-and-twenty-one miles from the family home in New York, Mike fears that something from "Candle Cove" may be trying to use her and the other children to establish itself corporeally in this dimension unless he finds a way to cross over himself and learn the secret of "Bravery Cave" of which the show constantly instructs viewers "You have to go inside."

Based on the story "Candle Cove" by cartoonist Kris Straub published at Creepypasta, the online forum that spawned such internet-era urban legends as "The Slender Man", the first season of the Syfy anthology series Channel Zero has an intriguing concept but its effectiveness is not only subject to the degree of credulity one puts in the whole Creepypasta phenomena the true crime case of two adolescent girls who reportedly stabbed a friend repeatedly because The Slender Man told them too seeming less like a measure of the urban legend's resonance than out-and-out gullibility nee stupidity of the youths and those who gave into the mass hysteria that scape-goated comic books, movies, and then video-games for violent behavior but also blunted by an extreme sense of derivativeness that one should probably know to expect from the writer of the execrable The Forest. Expanding upon the epistolary "story" which took the form of a series of posts on a forum dedicated to television nostalgia about the little-seen titular show, the show itself possess little new or noel for viewers of the likes of American Horror Story and Twin Peaks Twin Peaks' Harley Peyton is on the writing staff along with Child's Play's Don Mancini to The Ring and The Grudge (not so much the American or Japanese feature films as the earlier V-Cinema entries of the latter) as well as any number of Nordic Noir-influenced American crime shows and the surrealist turns of Hannibal (for which series creator Nick Antosca has also written along with CW's Teen Wolf series). The show is most successful at establishing not so much an atmosphere of dread so much as awkwardness in social situations that at least serves up some tension, while the most potentially disturbing imagery always turning out to be literal nightmare imagery from which the characters wake. Performance-wise, only Schneider, Shaw, and child actor Villacis (in a dual role) are given much to work with while much of the supporting actors are given merely functional characerizations (which is pretty disappointing when it comes to the film's human villain). The second season's "No-End House" promises horrors inside of a Halloween haunted house attraction, another concept done to death but rarely effectively, so a six episode commitment seems a minor sacrifice to see if the series improves with subsequent seasons.


Released last month in the United States on DVD-only, the digitally-lensed program comes to Blu-ray in the UK on a 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray spreading the series' six episodes over two BD-50 discs. Blacks are satisfyingly deep while allowing half-hidden details to remain delineated from the backgrounds, the desolate landscape shots have an inviting depth, and close-ups are a mixed blessing in revealing some of the seams of the show's low production values including the "tooth child" whose apparition not only becomes less effective from repeated exposure but also looks rather poorly designed.


Audio options include DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 stereo tracks that are generally front-oriented, reserving the surrounds for rare atmosphere of the desolate rural locations and more often the subtle and more aggressive passages of the show's score. There are no subtitle options.


Extras are limited to a Nick Antosca Interview (10:24) in which he describes Creepypasta as a collective unconscious of the internet in which the most effective stories strike a chord with the readers and inspire multimedia fan fiction based on the original concepts while also noting that for the Channel Zero concept, he could only chose for adaptation those stories for which they could trace the original writers. Describing his concept for expanding the original stories as stemming from the sort of nightmares one would have after reading such stories, he goes on to discuss the input of the writing staff, the influence of "disturbing" English and American children's television shows of the seventies and eighties, as well as the show's casting (particularly that of the child actors and leads Schneider and Shaw). The deleted scenes (3:43) indexed by episode are comprised entirely of excerpts from the "Candle Cove" television show, offering nothing of relevance and proving at least one wise decision was to restrict the amount of actual screentime afforded to the show within the show.



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