Channel Zero: Candle Cove (2016)
Directed by: Craig William Macneill
Written by: Don Mancini, Erica Saleh, Harley Peyton, Katie Gruel, Kris Straub, Mallory Westfall, Nick Antosca
Starring: Abigail Pniowsky, Fiona Shaw, Luca Villacis, Luisa D'Oliveira, Marina Stephenson Kerr, Natalie Brown, Paul Schneider, Shaun Benson
CHANNEL ZERO: CANDLE COVE
Season One Review
Child psychologist Mike Painter returns to his home town almost 30 years after the death of his twin brother Eddie who was one of 5 children mysteriously murdered in Iron Hill in 1988. Mike’s arrival to the town is greeted with open arms but when strange things start to occur, such as children going missing, attention quickly turns to Mike. Horrified that events of ’88 may be repeating themselves, Mike tries to get to the bottom of it and is convinced that the reappearance of 80’s children’s television show Candle Cove is somehow connected to the murders.
SyFy Channel presents Channel Zero, an original anthology series that adapts stories from creepypasta, a website where people like you and I can contribute fictional horror stories that appear to be be real or set in reality (i.e. not meant to read like a work of fiction). In looking for stories for the series, Nick Antosca (Hannibal) picked up Kris Straub’s Candle Cove, a very short but frightening tale about an old kids TV show that possessed frightening, disturbing qualities – prime for a six-part TV series!
Parks and Recreation star Paul Schneider stars as the tormented Mike Painter, a man who’s plagued by nightmares of the past; the death of his brother Eddie and THAT television show, Candle Cove. After being released from a mental health facility, Mike realises he has to face his demons and so returns to the place where his struggling mother had sent him away from after Eddie’s death. Returning back to his hometown of Iron Hill, he reconnects with his childhood friends, one of whom is now the local sheriff. During a dinner party at Sheriff Gary’s home, he meets Gary’s young daughter who tells Mike she’s been watching Candle Cove. A horrified Mike discloses this to the group, asking if they all remember the TV show and tells them that it’s back. Whilst all agree remembering the series and watching it when they were kids, none seem to be that spooked out about it as Mike who’s convinced that its brief airing on TV was to blame for the murders and its reappearance spells bad news. When Gary’s daughter goes missing the following day, all hell breaks loose as Mike is blamed for her disappearance but only Mike knows the truth that Candle Cove is not all what it seems.
Horror which plays on your mind is one of the most sophisticated storytelling techniques to terrorise and Channel Zero have found the right premise to kick off their anthology series. With kids TV shows of the past having much more freedom than the drivel that’s produced nowadays, it’s not hard to imagine a creepy kids show that is subliminally warping the minds of children. What better way to present this idea than with puppets, of which Candle Cove has plenty. Focusing the horror of a story on a kids television show that features Laughingstock the talking ship, a talking cloud, a one-eyed moustached Horace, scaredy-cat pirate Percy and the wicked skeletal Jawbone, is enough to send the shivers down anyone’s spine, young or old. When it starts to affect the kids, causing them to hurt others, it’s seriously time to change the channel!
Spread over six 40 minute episodes, CHANNEL ZERO: CANDLE COVE takes viewers on a strange trip as we see the adults trying to understand what happened to them when they were kids and what is happening to the children of Iron Hill today. Most of this is heaped onto the shoulders of Mike but his interactions with both believers and skeptics, such as his mother Marla, childhood sweetheart Jessica and Sheriff Gary, make for an interesting setup as Mike finds himself in a race against time against something he doesn’t completely understand. The fear factor is present throughout to ramp up this urgency with costumed individuals stalking the town with murder on their mind, a tooth-covered child wandering around the neighbourhood, preying on youngsters, and the disturbing, puppet-driven Candle Cove popping up on TV at any given moment. It truly does get underneath your skin!
Telling the story through a series of flashbacks to when Mike and co. were kids helps to move the series along nicely whilst a splash of murder is enough to keep your heart in your mouth wondering who could be next and what might happen if Mike doesn’t figure out Candle Cove soon! Though most of the horror is slightly off-screen, with very little of the red stuff visible, the way the scenes have been shot allow your mind to fill in the blanks – something which suits this series perfectly. It’s terrifying, it’s creepy and all the viewer wants to know is what the heck Candle Cove is all about and how it can be stopped.
Whilst I quite enjoyed the build-up and idea of Candle Cove, the ultimate reveal of what and who is behind it doesn’t exactly thrill and felt like a bit of a letdown. Had they just kept the origin a mystery, as it was initially, instead of crediting it to a particular person, I think that the story would have been much more effective in frightening viewers. The series does have many strong points though which are certainly worth noting with solid performances from its cast, particularly from child actress Abigail Pniowsky as Lily Painter, Luca Villacis as Eddie Painter and Marina Stephenson Kerr as school teacher Mrs Booth. There’s plenty to enjoy here so, despite the weak ending, you’ll definitely find elements to this series that will freak you the hell out and give you nightmares for the next few days.
With its Halloween III Silver Shamrock-esque approach, CHANNEL ZERO has a lot to shout about with its eerie, debut offering of CANDLE COVE. Let’s hope they can continue the scares with their next series NO-END HOUSE and deliver more chilling slices of television.