‘Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block’ Allures With Nightmarish Mystery
In the golden age of television anthologies, the Syfy Channel original series “Channel Zero,” sets out to reinvent the network’s brand. Created by Nick Antosca, each season of the horror anthology is inspired by a different Creepypasta – the 21st-century version of scary tales and urban legends that create nightmares across message boards and social media. In season three, “Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block,” which premieres its six-episode run on Feb. 7, a mysterious city holds gripping and deadly secrets.
This season focuses on the popular Creepypasta inspired by Kerry Hammond’s “Search and Rescue Woods” – in which a small city is cursed with puzzling rumors about mysterious staircases that appear in the worst neighborhoods. Following several local disappearances, the rumors blend into a trippy and nightmarish reality.
In an attempt to gain a fresh start from a haunting past, 20-something Alice (Olivia Luccardi, “It Follows” and “Orange Is the New Black”) and her older sister Zoe (Holland Roden, “Teen Wolf”), a recovering drug addict who has schizophrenia, move into town. Alice has taken a promising new job as a social worker – a positive reboot for the tired sisters. Along with a new locale, they hope to escape their seemingly rocky past they shared with their schizophrenic mother – who in an early scene calls her two daughters only to discover that they don’t want her knowing where they have fled.
Upon their arrival to the dreary-toned city, they set up their home in a large Victorian residence owned by Louise (Krisha Fairchild). She assures the two girls that she is not their babysitter – she merely collects the rent. A former journalist, Louise has been working to piece together a cold-case story about multiple disappearances that have marked the area. Among the missing persons is her own brother – so the case has a particularly personal meaning.
Of particular focus is a seedy neighborhood known as Butcher’s Block. Previously a trendy area in the city, due to the healthy donations by the Peach family – who have all since disappeared, the block is marked with an abandoned meats shop. However, a nearby abandoned park in the center of town provides the perfect vessel for a mysterious white staircase to suddenly arise. Its origins are unknown, but violent guards protect the land against any trespassers. With many moving parts, the first episode successfully sets up an intriguing mystery with brooding atmosphere and suspense.
Director Arkasha Stevenson, whom helms the entire season, captures Antosca’s script with rich visuals and eerie atmosphere. In a similar vein to the first two seasons, “Candle Cove” and “No – End House,” “Butcher’s Block” keeps up the strong visual aesthetic. The series has managed to provide a higher quality level of storytelling for the Syfy Channel – which has been previously known for cheesy special effects and outrageous titles, including their highly successful and highly profitable “Sharknado” franchise. “Channel Zero” elevates the level of production quality previously sampled from the network – providing a much need sense of rejuvenation. If the rest of the season plays out as strong as the pilot episode, you’ll want to watch the nightmarish imagery unravel with the lights on.
“Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block“ premieres Feb. 7 and airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Syfy Channel.