TV Series Review: Channel Zero: Candle Cove (2016)

Channel Zero is a horror anthology TV Series created by Nick Antosca, who serves as writer, showrunner, and executive producer. Originally airing on the SyFy channel, each season contains six episodes and are based on popular Creepypastas.

Season one was based on Candle Cove. Something we’ve recently become more familiar with thanks to Andrew J.D. Robinson recent horror short of the same name. You can read our review of that short here.

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Candle Cove is a Creepypasta horror written by author Kris Straub in 2009. Since then it has garnered a cult following. The story revolves around a TV series called, Candle Cove. This puppet show was only view-able by children and on an online thread a group of people discuss it. As they reminisce about the show they begin to remember more disturbing details about it before it is revealed by another that his mother said that when they were watching Candle Cove all that was on the TV was static.

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The immediate question that jumps to mind is how on earth could such a short idea be turned into a six-episode series? Would there be enough content to really make a thrilling and frightening horror show or could Candle Cove be turned into something that really terrifies?

Paul Schneider plays child psychologist Mike Painter, an affable yet boring man. After suffering a nervous breakdown of sorts, he returns to his hometown of Iron Hill where his mother is living. He has not been back for nearly thirty years ever since his twin brother, Eddy and four other children were murdered by an unknown killer. To make matters worse, Eddy’s body was never found.

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His mother, Marla (Fiona Shaw) is less then pleased to see him back. She worries that he will re-open old wounds. Nor is the local sheriff, Gary (Shaun Benson) but because of his wife, Jessica’s (Natalie Brown) affection towards Mike they invite him over to dinner. It’s there he gets talking to their young daughter, Katie who reveals that she has recently seen Candle Cove.

This disturbs Mike who brings it up with the other adults. They all reminisce about the show and its disturbing puppet characters. It mysteriously aired during the time of the murders and then suddenly went off the air. Each adult is uncomfortable talking about the show and when Katie then goes missing the next day, Mike is instantly under suspicion.

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Mike is led to where she is by someone dressed as a character from the show but while Katie has been found, something isn’t right with her. She becomes violent afterwards attacking her brother and wounding him. On Jessica’s insistence, Gary allows Mike to talk to her in the hospital where he finds more clues and links to Candle Cove.

The show is back and all the kids in the town are watching it again. Just how is this linked to the murders that took place 30 years previously and how is Mike involved? The mystery runs far deeper then anyone could think and is far more horrifying than anyone could expect.

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There is a lot to love about Channel Zero: Candle Cove. The imagination used, the effects and many of the shots are great. The first two episodes draw you into this messed up world and leaves you with so many questions that you’re desperate to get answers too. Unfortunately, there really isn’t enough story here to sustain a six-episode run and the middle portions really begin to drag things out.

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Far too many times the show goes for vague explanations designed only to drag things out. It constantly skirts around important plot points in favour of another vague discussion. By episode 4 the lack of deep and meaningful dialogue really begins to get on the nerves.

Only in the last 15-30 minutes of the finale do we get the answers we seek and to be honest, they’re not that satisfying.

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As the lead Paul Schneider is hit and miss. On one hand he plays a damaged individual well but he doesn’t show a range of emotion. He often looks tired and while that works for his character, his one tone response to almost everything makes him a difficult character to connect too. On the other hand, Fiona Shaw is great as his long-suffering mother and Shaun Benson really deserved more screen time. It’s frustrating to see him almost written out of the show in the last few episodes especially as a huge event directly affects him.

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While there isn’t anyone who stinks up the screen, the minor child roles fail to really add much in the way of creepiness. Anyone who has seen Children of the Corn will get the same vibe from them but with far less threat.

No, the creep factor comes from the cinematography which is pretty class all the way through. Especially when focused on one particular creature.

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The tooth creature will get the same reactions from everyone, it is disgusting looking. While it’s not the only monster in the show, it’s a pity that the best-looking ones aren’t shown until the final 15 minutes or so. Instead the show regularly tries to creep the viewer out with the puppet show appearing on TVs. It works the first few times but after a while it lacks impact especially as it shows the same scene over and over again.

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Working out just what happened will require you to pay attention and think a bit about what you’ve just seen. It’s not that it’s overly complex, it’s just that it didn’t really try to tie all the loose ends together, instead leaving a few things ambiguous.

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That might be fine if it was a fascinating and wild ride but it isn’t. The penultimate episode in particular is very boring and when you reflect on the show overall afterwards you might find a lot of gaps in your memory.

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Channel Zero: Candle Cove
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