‘Channel Zero: Candle Cove’ is a Creepy Change of Pace for SyFy

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These days, when you think of SyFy’s original horror offerings, you might think of the campy, self-aware “Z Nation,” or the ultra-cheesy, ultra self-aware “Sharknado” film series. And hey, if that’s your thing, more power to you.

For those of us that love creepy, unsettling, slow-burn horror, SyFy’s latest original series is a breath of fresh air. The anthology series will feature a different story each season, similar to “American Horror Story.” Season 2 has already been greenlit with a whole other story.

The inspiration for the show is what’s known as a creepypasta — a play on “copypasta,” which is a play on “copypaste” — a scary story that started on the internet, and was shared on various forums such as Reddit and 4chan, something of a modern-day urban legend. The inspiration for Season 1 was “Candle Cove,” one of the creepier creepypastas out there. You can read the original story here, but beware: It reveals a major spoiler for the first episode of the series. Season two will revolve around another famous creepypasta: “No-End House.”

‘Why Are You Afraid to Come Home?’

The first season, which will have six episodes, follows Mike Painter, a famous child psychologist who returns to his hometown of Iron Hill, Ohio, after many years. As a child, Mike’s twin brother Eddie disappeared, along with four other children. The other kids were found dead in the woods, with their teeth missing — but Eddie was nowhere to be found. Mike’s family fell apart and he ended up in a foster home, never returning to Iron Hill until now.

To say that memories of Eddie and his disappearance still haunt Mike is an understatement. We see early on that he’s estranged from his wife and child after he recently suffered a mental breakdown. Furthermore, we learn that he’s been having nightmares in which a young Eddie calls him to ask when he’s coming home. Interlaced with his nightmares are references to “Candle Cove” — a creepy, low-budget puppet show that Mike and Eddie used to watch in the ’80s, which Mike believes is somehow related to the child murders.

Channel Zero: Candle Cove on SyFy

You Have to Go Inside

The Candle Cove scenes really help to add to the atmosphere. Whereas “Stranger Things” captured our nostalgia for the ’80s with a rocking soundtrack and a group of lovable kids playing Dungeons & Dragons and cruising around on their bikes, Candle Cove takes that nostalgia in a much darker direction.

The children’s show Mike remembers was an odd, unsettling pirate show featuring characters like Jawbone, a pirate skeleton who tells the main character that he’s going to skin her. It looks like a very rough, low-budget Sid and Marty Krofft ripoff, and like many children’s shows featuring puppets, it’s pretty unsettling when you watch it as an adult.

Candle Cove was only on a local TV station for a short time in 1988. During that time period, kids in Iron Hill started to disappear. After Eddie went missing and the bodies were found, the show stopped…until Mike returns to Iron Hill, and discovers it’s back on the air. Naturally, another child disappears shortly after mentioning the show to Mike, and his recent history makes him the prime suspect. To add to the creep factor, as Mike delves into the mystery, we really don’t know if he’s a reliable narrator at all.

Unlike some of the more in-your-face horror films and shows, “Channel Zero” is a slow burn that builds up the creep factor inch by inch. The more bits and pieces we see from Candle Cove, and the more we learn about the back story and its connections to the murders, the more unsettling it becomes. Creator Nick Antosca handles Kris Staub’s source material with great care, and does a fantastic job using the mythology as a foundation while building a compelling story upon it.

The first episode, titled “You Have to Go Inside,” is available on demand. New episodes air Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. on SyFy.

Mike watched "Night of the Living Dead" on PBS when he was a little kid, and he thought it was a documentary. He's been hooked on horror ever since. By day, Mike is a UX writer. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and their golden retriever.