The Horror Honeys: Channel Zero: Candle Cove - Episode 1

Channel Zero: Candle Cove - Episode 1

 A Guest Honey Recap with Addison Peacock

Candle Cove Could Be the Horror Show We Need 

The series premiere of Syfy’s Channel Zero: Candle Cove is an exercise in subtlety as a horror device. This is not to say that the dialogue is particularly subtle, it’s actually a little heavy on exposition, which is not unusual for a first episode of a new series. I also don’t mean that the characterization is subtle either, as most of our main cast fits snugly into obvious genre archetypes in a way that is really almost comforting. What is subtle, gradual, and almost delicate is the introduction of the more frightening elements of the story. With a lot of focus on the impact of loss on both a community and an individual, a look at the relationship between childhood and adulthood, and childhood flashbacks heavily reminiscent of Stand By Me, this series has already set itself apart from any other horror on TV right now.

It’s 11:00, do you know where your children are? Are they with a fucking nightmare puppet? 
The episode opens with our protagonist, Dr. Mike Painter, being interviewed on a television talk show. It is all very pedestrian, with the occasional hint of unsettling things to come: as Mike speaks, he notices a fly slowly drowning in his water glass, and a moment later he recounts the death of his twin brother. He gets a phone call on the show that begins normally, but slowly devolves into frightening childish laughter, quiet calliope music, and the question “Why are you scared to come home?” Cut back to: the fly in the water glass, now dead and unmoving. It is then revealed that this talk show scene is not real at all, but a nightmare that Mike has had. There is shot of his tired eyes and furrowed brow, and the text Channel Zero: Candle Cove appears, immediately letting us know where we have arrived. 

Let’s be real, is that a face you can trust?
This opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the episode: a little bit surreal, blurring dream and reality, past and present, and with an unreliable protagonist as our guide. 

The events of the first half of the episode unfold in a somewhat predictable way. Dr. Painter returns to his hometown and reconnects with his mother and old friends from childhood. These reunions spark memories of his lost brother, and their childhood together, before his death. He reconnects with a particular old friend, the town sheriff, whose daughter is a student of Mike’s mother (it’s a very small town, everyone knows everyone). He tells the Sheriff that he is in town after all of these years in order to write a book about the children who went missing, along with his brother, in the 80s. When the Sheriff and his wife have Mike over for dinner, their daughter Katie privately tells Mike that she has been watching a television show called Candle Cove which prompts Mike to recall watching the same show when he was a child. Specifically the show’s villain, a pirate skeleton named Jawbone, and the eerie way that it affected his brother’s behavior. 
Is letting your kids play with hooks an 80s thing, or…? 
When Katie goes missing the next day, and Mike comes under suspicion for her disappearance, he insists that the television show must have had something to do with it. Of course, he is not taken seriously by anyone in the town. It is revealed to the audience that Mike was recently released from a psych ward, to which he was admitted after experiencing a psychotic break during which he carved the words “Mike Come Home” into his arm. However, Mike proves himself at least somewhat credible when he finds Katie in a spot where he and his brother once played. She insists that the show told her where to go, and Mike brings her back home to her family. As soon as they leave, we get our first (fleeting) glimpse of the Tooth Child, along with the reveal that Katie left several teeth behind for it to take.  

I can't be the only one who thinks this thing is a cavity waiting to happen.
The episode ends with the exciting reveal that, according to Mike’s mother, the television show Candle Cove never existed. Whenever Mike and his brother claimed to be watching it, all that she could see was static on the screen. This revelation, combined with the fact that Mike’s friends also remember watching the show, opens some interesting doors as far as plot speculation goes. Is this show some sort of entity that only children can see? Is it seeking out children specifically? Is the tooth child related to the show, or a separate creature taking advantage of the opportunity to steal teeth from its victims? I personally think that Jawbone is some sort of spirit, using the show and its frequencies to mine the town for victims to consume. As for why it’s returned after over twenty years, or why it’s seeking out Mike, I really can’t be sure. I look forward to seeing where the show goes next.

This may be a somewhat controversial opinion, but: in our current selection of sense-assaulting horror television fare, where torture porn is never lacking and sexual assault is sprinkled onto stories like salt (I’m looking at you, American Horror Story), a slow burn like this is a welcome change of pace. Visually, the show is packed with lush green woods, thick cornfields, and quaint charming houses, painting a picture that is idyllic and comforting. Paired with the mounting sense of dread, and occasional flashes of the macabre, the contrast between these two moods makes the show’s restrained take on horror extremely effective. 

Channel Zero: Candle Cove might be a little tame for you, or it might be the (still quite scary, just not so in your face about it) reprieve you’ve been looking for. You’ll just have to tune in to find out. 

Did you tune in to Candle Cove's premiere? 
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Belladonna Horror Mag: Belladonna 1.5
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