It’s fair to say that Channel Zero manages to pull off a really impressive first season. Whilst it isn’t scary enough to warrant hiding behind the sofa, the build-up of tension and excellent execution allows for the maximum amount of dread to be exploited.
Based on creepypastas (horror stories shared around the internet), Channel Zero is unique and disturbing in equal doses. The first season, named Candle Cove, features 6 episodes that tell the story of a strange children’s TV show that seems to hypnotize its watchers. There’s a sense of urgency here that prevents any filler from creeping into the show. The genuinely creepy story manages to provide just the right level of horror without losing any momentum through to its climactic ending, making the lacklustre acting easy to forgive.
The story skips back and forth between 1988 and the present day and focuses on a strange show called Candle Cove and a series of murders linked to it. When the show returns to air again after its brief stint in the 80s, it conveniently coincides with a child going missing. What follows is an unfolding story that merges past and present, shedding light on what happened to Mike (Paul Schneider) and his friends in 1988 and more importantly, what the return of Candle Cove means for the residents of this town in the present time. The story itself is well paced and with a relatively small budget, there are grounds to be really creative with the creature design and thankfully Channel Zero pulls it off.
Its worth noting here that from the off, there’s a real understanding in how to maximise horror without devolving into showing buckets of blood or overusing jump scares. In fact, neither are evident through the six episodes. Instead, long, agonising camera shots are used throughout with an underlying string-heavy score to really accentuate what’s happening on-screen.
The practical effects are really impressive too; with a profound lack of CGI, it brings a sense of realism sorely lacking from many of today’s horrors. Combined with an excellent use of lighting and some hypnotically disturbing imagery for the TV show Candle Cove, Channel Zero really nails its aesthetic. There’s a sense of familiarity here that reminds me a lot of the 90s and I think a lot of this stems from an understanding of the genre and combining that with a suffocating level of tension and dread throughout.
If there’s one thing Channel Zero doesn’t nail it’s the acting. Whilst the plot moves along at a good pace and the episodes themselves feature a good build up of horror, the characters don’t always fit in with the story. There’s a real lack of chemistry between some characters and a lot of the supporting cast don’t always nail their lines. It’s a shame too, but the monotone reading of the script really does drag some elements of the show down. Whilst it isn’t inherently bad, it’s just noticeable enough to be a distraction without detracting too much from this season.
It’s fair to say that Channel Zero manages to pull off a really impressive first season. Whilst it isn’t scary enough to warrant hiding behind the sofa, the build up of tension and excellent execution allows for the maximum amount of dread to be exploited. Some of the imagery is genuinely disturbing, and its helped by using practical effects throughout. The acting is a little disappointing at times but the plot moves along at a decent enough pace that its easy to overlook any shortcomings here.
With another 3 seasons promised, Syfy have managed to pull off a decent little horror anthology that’s as charming as it is disturbing. It’ll be interesting to see where they go in its second season and beyond, but based on this showing, it’s certainly an exciting prospect.