Candle Cove, the first season of horror anthology series Channel Zero, premiered on the Syfy network in October of 2016. The series was quick to gain a cult following, in part because of its established fan base from the creepypasta story that it’s based on, and it spared no expense in unnerving its viewers over the course of the six-episode season. Channel Zero is heading into its third season on Syfy, but with Candle Cove being recently added to the Shudder library, many horror fans are just now tuning in to the acclaimed series- and those in search of top-tier horror TV would be foolish not to join them.
Candle Cove follows Mike Painter (Paul Schneider), a successful child psychologist with a horrific past, as he heads to his hometown to dig into the mystery that has been plaguing the city since he was a kid and find the connection between the terrible events and a bizarre children’s program that began airing on television at the time. Upon his return, however, similar events begin to occur, and Mike comes to realize that only he can bring the decades-long terror to an end.
The story undeniably takes its time unfolding as director Craig William Macneill layers the mystery evenly across the season, and at only six episodes, the pacing is consistent enough to keep them from dragging. Rather than taking an abrasive, in-your-face horror approach, Macneill and company (among which is Don Mancini, the god of the Child’s Play franchise) embrace a surreal, slow descent into madness that continually ups the weirdness and gradually roots itself in your mind- but that’s not to say there aren’t hellish moments of fright. While Candle Cove starts as an entrancingly odd fever dream, it crawls into the unmarked territory of an all-out nightmare. Though there are moments when the weirdness of the season begins to feel like an attention-hogging gimmick, it is mostly reeled in and effective.
Candle Cove also serves as a showcase for stellar writing, complete with jaw-dropping events and unexpected revelations, as well as strong performances from Schneider, and especially Fiona Shaw, who is heartbreaking as her character grits through pain and loss. Those performances and character arcs anchor the dread-soaked nightmare with a much-needed humanity, and serve as inspiration to believe that a light can exist at the end of Candle Cove‘s pitch black tunnel.
The Bottom Line:
Channel Zero: Candle Cove is an unforgettable entry in the ever-growing catalog of horror television. Give it time. It will get its hook in you.