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Children of the Cornswaggle

Channel Zero, for those unable to afford conventional television such as my undead self, is a SyFy original horror anthology series that is soon-to-be 4 seasons deep. It bases each season off of a different creepypasta story, with the first season tackling Candle Cove, following a creepypasta of the same name.

Candle Cove follows a children's psychologist, Mike Painter (Paul Schneider), who returns to his childhood town and estranged mother to try and tackle his recent nightmares and psychotic episode. Upon returning, strange occurrences and unexplained deaths and disappearances begin to happen and it all seems to be related to a disturbing kids' TV show and a mysterious, dark presence.

Channel Zero: Candle Cove Review

I've been very slow to get on the Channel Zero bandwagon no matter how badly Efrit and I wanted to. Thankfully, Shudder picked up the first season on its streaming service, so we were finally able to get a belated start on the anthology series. I've just so happened to be watching two horror shows simultaneously. The other, of course, was the recently reviewed Castle Rock based off of Stephen King concepts. And with a fairly small sample size of purely horror TV shows out there (though there are plenty of thriller/mystery shows to find), this is an unusual opportunity to do a little comparison.

Firstly, let's not suger-coat it. I had some qualms with Castle Rock. It is heavily imbalanced in the answer-to-question ratio, leaving you hanging episode after episode. Candle Cove, on the other hand, doesn't suffer from this flaw. Perhaps it's because Candle Cove was only 6 episodes and was a planned enclosed series, as opposed to Castle Rock, which is indefinitely open-ended. Still, Candle Cove sets its questions early and gradually reveals answers in a relatively reliable manner.

Also, I must say that Candle Cove has done horror so effectively that I would admit I haven't been this bothered by a TV show since The Outer Limits as a kid. I haven't been able to quite put my finger on spends a good amount of time in the daylight and its jump-scares and gore are very limited. But since when do those things actually linger in your subconscious anyways?

No, it's something else. It's the subtle sounds and score, the disturbing and creepy atmosphere, the treatment of characters and their all adds up to a genuinely terrifying experience wrapped in an inconspicuous TV show.

Paul Schneider does an excellent job in the lead role, with great turns by Marina Kerr and Fiona Shaw. Even the child actors hold their own, especially the twin brothers that dominate the flashbacks. There isn't much of a weakness in the show, willing to take it to the limits of what SyFy generally allows while still managing to deliver something truly horrifying and cohesive.

I would say that my greatest complaint with American Horror Story was lacked cohesion from episode to episode, and it got old, for me, season after season. But Candle Cove showed me that isn't a necessary trait in giving good television horror. And I can't wait to get a hold of the other seasons.

Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 9/10

Horror Quality: 8/10

Show Quality: 8/10

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