Mainstream horror anthologies were introduced to television screens in October 2011 with FX’s “American Horror Story: Murder House”; the show was an immediate hit, and will premiere the first episode of their ninth season this year. A lesser-known anthology of scares is the SYFY channel’s short-lived series, “Channel Zero.” After only four seasons of wonderfully-crafted macabre tales, the show was cancelled, making dedicated horror fans weep in, well, horror.
“Channel Zero” was built around the concept of each season being based on a different creepypasta (a horror short story posted on the internet told in a casual manner in order to seem real). The variety seen on the show brought recognition to indie horror authors whose work can now be appreciated outside of the internet.
If “Channel Zero” was critically panned, the show’s cancellation would have made more sense, but the problem is the show wasn’t. Two of the seasons of “Channel Zero” received the coveted 100% approval rating on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. The show was bending viewers’ perceptions of what horror could be. Each season has an almost cathartic ending as the protagonists either overcome or succumb to the real horrors around them.
Clearly the series wasn’t a critical failure, so what was the reason for the sudden cancellation of “Channel Zero?”
The concept of “Channel Zero” was original, interesting and raking in constant acclaim, but the lack of viewership is the reason why the show failed. SYFY isn’t the most popular television channel for original content, and SYFY simply wasn’t promoting “Channel Zero” enough.
After noting the downward spiral of the show’s viewership combined with the fact there are rarely familiar faces in “Channel Zero” (save Harry Potter’s Aunt Petunia), the show’s cancellation begins to make sense. Although it’s been nominated for multiple sci-fi and horror awards, “Channel Zero” never received the audience it deserved so much.
The night can be dark and terrifying, but “Channel Zero” proved not all creatures go bump in the night. From terrifying puppets to cannibalistic doppelgängers, the show brought the most unique and terrifying creature designs to the screen.
To commemorate the artistic feat lost with the cancellation of “Channel Zero,” here are the four scariest monsters from each season and why you should be watching this incredibly creepy show.
1. The Tooth Man – Season 1, “Candle Cove”
“Channel Zero” kicks off with a cinematic first season that tells the story of a child psychologist returning to his childhood home years after tragedy. The tragedy aligned with the airing of a creepy kids show called “Candle Cove,” which suddenly airs again decades later. The kicker? “Candle Cove” never existed to adults: It was merely static on the TV to them.
The main poster for the first season of “Channel Zero” prominently features a person completely covered in teeth. This image was what piqued my interest in the show, and I wasn’t disappointed with how strange and eerie the tooth man wound up being.
On my first watch of this first season — titled “Candle Cove,” based on the short story by Kris Straub — I was shocked at how well-made the show was. The practical effects of all the monsters are terrifying, with a childlike whimsy added that one wouldn’t expect out of an indie TV show.
Though a definite slow burn, “Candle Cove” has iconic character designs rivaling Hollywood blockbuster nightmares.
2. The Egg – Season 2, “No-End House”
The second season of “Channel Zero” proved horror can move audiences. “No-End House” tells the story of a young girl finding the opportunity to bring her father, whose death traumatized her, back from the dead, though he might not be the same.
After visiting a terrifying traveling art museum, the protagonists become haunted by the beings they love most, be it parents, girlfriends, dogs or in the case of one character — a giant egg.
At first the egg is exactly what it sounds like: a big glowing egg in a strange room. As the character returns more often to the egg, human forms inside of it become more apparent as they push on the shell to get out.
The display is terrifying, yet sad. We feel for whoever is inside of there, but that’s how the egg gets you. Be very wary next time you buy jumbo grade A eggs, okay?
3. Meat Servant – Season 3, “Butcher’s Block”
With a very appetizing name, Meat Servant is one of the most mysterious creatures to come out of “Channel Zero.” We never see the Meat Servant do anything too terrifying; he simply IS terrifying.
“Butcher’s Block” covers the trauma of two sisters recovering from the death of their mentally ill mother. They both fear their mother’s fate will be theirs because her condition was hereditary. One day, one of the sisters discovers a staircase leading to a magical world ruled by a rich family in a town whose residents all really love meat. Of course, the type of meat they eat you could never find in the grocery store due to cannibalism being illegal.
The Meat Servant is always watching and ever present in the background. He’s evocative of the Pale Man from “Pan’s Labyrinth,” an ominous and mysterious figure who is harmless unless provoked.
While “Butcher’s Block” is by far the most abstract season of “Channel Zero,” this tale of two sisters is one you’ll never forget, even if you’ll really want to.
4. Pretzel Jack – Season 4, “The Dream Door”
The final season of “Channel Zero” features one of the most terrifying antagonists: Pretzel Jack. Born from the protagonist’s mind as a child, Pretzel Jack is a manifestation of his creator’s anger and distrust toward those who hurt her. While Pretzel Jack might have been an imaginary friend at first, he soon becomes a very real threat.
As his name reveals, Pretzel Jack can twist like a pretzel. He’s modeled after circus contortionists but is no less terrifying than creepy carnival clowns. The SFX makeup done on the actor completes Pretzel Jack’s otherworldly look with just the right amount of uncanny valley to keep you up at night.
The final season is one of the best the show produced. The focus of the show is learning to cope with mental illness born from childhood trauma, and the results are beautifully gory.
If you ever find yourself looking for a scare, “Channel Zero” has four seasons full of horrors you’ve never seen before. While the show’s cancellation feels like a slap in the face after four seasons of critical acclaim, here’s to hoping the show will be remembered for all the great ghouls and goose bumps its stories gave viewers.