Developed for the screen from an original creepy pasta (written by Kris Straub) ‘Channel Zero: Candle Cove’ is a definite series to check out this Halloween season.
The series is split into six 45-minute-long episodes which takes the story to its conclusion, and whilst there are plans for a season two, it will not feature in the same setting or indeed context.
The plot centres on Mike Painter (Paul Schneider) a child psychologist who is beckoned, in dreams and hallucinations, back to his hometown after a psychological breakdown. As a child he was the sole survivor of an unexplained series of murders, which also claimed the life of his twin brother, and subsequently sent away by his mother for his own safety.
Upon his return, the town’s folk aren’t exactly pleased to see him (except one perhaps), after all he is a stark reminder of a past the residents would rather forget. To make matters worse, upon his arrival, the mysterious TV program ‘Candle Cove’ begins to broadcast through television static, the first time since the murders. One by one the towns children begin to act bizarre, more violent and distant, referencing the elusive TV program and acting out its surreal and dark themes.
Needless to say, the shows strength comes from both its cast and characters. Whilst it took me a while to warm to the rather feeble protagonist, I found the supporting cast helped him play the outcast well. Whilst there is always something sinister going on in the town, the writers do well to ensure that the rural setting appears as normal as possible, making the developing mystery more natural, and somewhat more intriguing as a result. The scripting is nice, allowing us (the viewers) to discover how the town developed in the wake of the murders as well as be introduced to the diverse nature of its inhabitants, their traits, mental states and the skeletons in the closets. The story flits back and forth between the present, and the time before the murders, when the surviving characters were children further establishing the depth of the plot and context.
As with the main cast, the child actors are strong indeed, in particular the performance of Abigail Pniowsky – a career in the making no doubt!
Naturally the earlier couple of episodes take a while to get going, and whilst they make sense by the time you watch the final episodes, I didn’t quite get the context some of the more ‘horror’ elements which were introduced early on. Indeed, here I would take the opportunity to point out the only thing about the series I believe could have been better, and that’s the scares. Without giving to much away (the plots twists and end of episode cliff-hangers are what make the show so engaging) the main horror threat comes from the various guises of the grizzly puppet characters from the titular show. Whilst the rest of the filming is more than reasonable, there seem to have been little effort put into developing the atmosphere within any of the scare scenes; the ones in-particular early on are set in broad-daylight, and with the effects looking somewhat ‘made for TV’, it looked more comical than creepy; a contrast to the films very serious tone.
There is one exception to this and that is the design of the ‘tooth child’ who looks amazing! (too bad he shambles around in the daytime to, he could have been seriously frightening).
Still, the movies violence on the other hand is satisfyingly strong. Whilst I will state that most of the child-centric violence happens tastefully offscreen there is still a good number of violent scenes which we do see. Coupled with the strong characterisation and immersive plot, these murderous plot twists have even more impact.
Overall, if you are a fan of TV miniseries, in-particular the Stephen King adaptations I feel you will be right at home with ‘Channel Zero: Candle Cove’. Once I got into it, say half way though episode 2 I couldn’t help but to binge watch. The last few episodes really carry momentum well right though to a solemn but satisfying conclusion. A great balance of mysterious and creepy, perfect viewing in my book.
The whole series is out on DVD courtesy of Second Sight Films, I recommend you check it out.
Roll on Season 2.