What could be more unsettling than finding out that your childhood memory of a television show is, well … nonexistent? Channel Zero’s premise is based on Candle Cove, a made-up story first posted on Internet forum Creepypasta. It was a series of postings by users on a forum about old TV shows. User Skyshale033 asked if anyone remembered the show Candle Cove, which aired in the 1970s at 4pm. He said he was about six or seven years old when he first watched the show.
Mike_painter65 replied with details about a pirate marionette talking to a little girl, to which a relieved Skyshale033 said: “Yes! Okay, I’m not crazy!”
More users joined in the conversation and each recalled memories of the show. Eventually, more unsettling details about the show began to surface. One user described a character called The Skin Taker who would look at the camera, and said his mouth moved to “grind your skin”. There was also a whole episode of Candle Cove dedicated to the little girl screaming and crying.
The last posting was by mike_painter65, who shared that he asked his own mother if she remembered anything about the show.
She said it was strange to see her son watching static on the TV screen for 30 minutes, and attributed it to his vast imagination.
So there was no Candle Cove? But how could different children have the same memory of something that never was?
Fortunately, if you’re into closure like that, Channel Zero attempts to give you all the answers.Channel Zero expands the Candle Cove story into a six-episode tale centred on a childhood tragedy. The first episode opens with child psychologist/author Mike Painter (Paul Schneider) returning to his hometown where, 30 years ago, he lost his twin brother Eddie (Luca Villacis) in an incident called the Iron Hill Murders.
Four other children were found dead and the case remained unsolved. Mike believed that Candle Cove, a show that he and Eddie used to watch as kids, had something to do with the incident.
Before Eddie died, he told Mike that he was going to join a pirate gang on an adventure to Candle Cove. Mike also remembered that Eddie was behaving strangely.
He was unnecessarily violent to a bully and even threatened to harm Mike’s childhood crush Jessica (Natalie Brown). Mike believed Candle Cove influenced Eddie to do bad things.
However, his mother Marla (Fiona Shaw) and some friends dismissed the notion. It didn’t help that Mike had a mental breakdown days before coming home and had apparently carved up his own arm in front of his wife and child.
Channel Zero draws the audience in with the idea of an intriguing, scary mystery to solve. Who is behind Candle Cove? Is Mike a reliable protagonist? Is there really a supernatural entity behind the murders or is everything part of an elaborate lie?
Channel Zero also introduces creatures like one made entirely of baby teeth (simply called The Tooth Child) – and of course, there’s The Skin Taker – to elevate the scare factor.
The Candle Cove footage we are shown is crudely made, with leering puppets speaking in disturbing voices, telling a reluctant porcelain-faced doll to go into a dark cave.
But neither the creatures nor the creepy puppets can hold a candle to the real children on the show and the murderous things they do to the town’s adults. So yes, Channel Zero is simply hard to look away from, especially when every episode features a new reveal or clues to the puzzle (usually in the form of Mike’s flashbacks about Eddie) and ends on a cliffhanger.
Essentially, the show tells the audience what happens when children feel neglected. It’s obvious that Mike and Eddie couldn’t deal with their father abandoning the family. They were left in front of the television most of the time and that was when things started to go wrong.
But, just like the boys get lost in their own little world built around Candle Cove, Channel Zero also tends to get lost in its attempt to form an elaborate backstory for a simple Creepypasta posting.
As the show goes on, it has a hard time keeping up with its own reveals and as a result, some aspects are left unexplained or without a satisfactory answer.
But if you’re curious like me and just want to find out the reason why something sinister like Candle Cove even exists, then you can easily breeze through the show from one scary turn to the next shocking twist.
Just leave the lights on and remember to unplug the TV set after you’re done.
All six episodes of Channel Zero are available on iflix.